Chinese Official Accuses Graft-Busting Journalist of Extortion

2006-04-13
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A newspaper and magazine stall in Beijing. Photo: AFP/Peter Parks

HONG KONG—A county-level Party secretary in the southern Chinese province of Hunan says journalist Yang Xiaoqing, held by county authorities after writing detailed exposes about transfers of state assets by local officials, tried to extort money from him.

After Yang Xiaoqing wrote his piece about the misuse of state assets, the county government office was constantly saying to him, ‘Don’t run this story. Don’t print it.'

“His problem was not that he wrote the articles. It was that he used his articles to extort money,” Longhui county secretary Yang Jianxin told RFA’s Mandarin service. “I can tell you only this much.”

Asked if Yang Xiaoqing had tried to extort money from him, the Party secretary said: “This will be dealt with according to law. I can tell you only this much.”

Yang Xiaoqing’s wife, Gong Jie, said Party secretary Yang had sent police officers after her husband several times in Beijing, and in the provincial capital of Changsha.

Officials put pressure on reporter

Yang Xiaoqing and his wife were also forced into hiding after a murder attempt by gangs of thugs toting weapons, Gong told RFA Mandarin’s Investigative Report .

“After Yang Xiaoqing wrote his piece about the loss of state assets, the county government office was constantly saying to him ‘don’t run this story. Don’t print it.’,” she told reporter Bai Fan.

“Yang kept telling them that he had already filed the story to his paper, so they should take it up with them.”

She called on fellow journalists to stand up for press freedom, and support her husband’s cause.

"This is not just an individual case. It affects the right of journalists in China to do their job, and if he is found guilty it will amount to an attack on the entire profession,” Gong said.

“Fellow journalists should stand up on behalf of Yang Xiaoqing.” Yang Xiaoqing’s defense lawyer said he was hopeful, given the lack of evidence against his client to date.

Wife uses blog to support Yang

“For now, bearing in mind that we haven’t yet got to the point of formal charges or a trial, so we haven’t seen the evidence that they have gathered against him, but to judge from what the family has told us so far, what Gong Jie has described to me, I would say that Yang Xiaoqing has been wronged, simply because of a lack of complete, solid and factual evidence against him,” the lawyer said.

Yang, 36, was arrested in January after five months in hiding from police, and charged with extortion after reporting claims of dishonest state property sales in his home county of Longhui.

Overseas rights groups have slammed Yang’s detention as a fundamental violation of freedom of expression, and basic human rights.

Yang has been the correspondent of China Industrial and Economic News since 2001. He also writes for Hong Kong’s Chinese-language Commercial Daily newspaper.

In her blog, his wife has accused the authorities of trying to make Yang confess to something he did not do. His lawyers say prosecutors took up the case on the orders of the local officials who had brought an action against him.

Yang is currently being held in the Longhui police station, where police officers have refused to give any information about him to the news media.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Bai Fan. RFA Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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