A Chinese journalist whose disappearance on March 15 was believed linked to the publication of an open letter calling for President Xi Jinping's resignation, was released on Friday, his lawyer told RFA’s Cantonese service.
Lawyer Chen Jiangang said the wife of Jia Jia told him she was going to pick up the 41-year-old journalist in Beijing Friday evening, but that nearly all aspects of the case remained murky. It was unclear whether Jia was at a police station or in some kind of detention center.
“It was really a big misunderstanding to hold Jia Jia for 10 days thinking he was somehow involved in some letter,” Chen told RFA. “But in the case of China, a misunderstanding can embroil a whole clan,” he said, using a Chinese phrase for guilt by association.
Jia’s twitter feed, which had been silent since he went missing, carried a brief note saying “thank you, everyone” for showing concern over his case.
His last known phone call was made at around 8 p.m. on March 15 at Beijing International Airport shortly after he went through immigration and as he waited to board a flight to Hong Kong, where two days later he failed to show up at a scheduled talk at the Hong Kong City University.
According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Jia told friends that he believed the police were looking for him in relation to a March 4 open letter by purported “loyal party members” published on the Watching News (in Chinese, Wujie) website calling on Xi “to resign from all Party and state leadership positions.”
“We make this request out of consideration for the Party cause, out of consideration for the nation and its people—and also out of consideration for your personal safety and that of your family,” said the letter, according to a translation by the China Digital Times, a California-based media analysis website.
“We have no choice but to point out that, precisely due to your gathering of all power into your own hands and making decisions directly, we are now facing unprecedented problems and crises in all political, economic, ideological, and cultural spheres,” the letter said.
News of Jia’s release came shortly after his friend Wen Yunchao, a New York-based blogger who writes under the name Bei Feng, said on his Twitter feed that that his parents and younger brother in Guangdong province in southern China were detained by authorities on March 22.
Wen, who friends say had merely retweeted the report on Watching News about the letter to Xi, said he believed his family’s disappearance was related to the case.
Earlier this week, the editor-in-chief of the Watching News website, Ouyang Hongliang, was taken in for questioning along with other staff members in connection with the letter, associates told RFA.
The BBC has reported that as many as 16 Watching News staff—six from editorial and 10 from technical support—have been taken away by Chinese authorities.
A friend of Ouyang’s told RFA that he has received no word on the fate of the editor and that information has become harder to obtain now that Watching News had been disbanded.
Reported by Pan Jiaqing for RFA’s Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Paul Eckert.