A Chinese journalist who wrote an article about dozens of university students who have gone missing in recent years in the central city of Wuhan has been detained on suspicion of "rumor-mongering."
The 39-year-old journalist, identified only by his surname Wang, has been detained on suspicion of "faking the facts and spreading rumors" after he wrote an article titled "32 Students Mysteriously Disappear in Wuhan," featuring interviews with their family members, the Beijing Youth Daily newspaper reported.
Wuhan police issued a directive on Thursday saying that the content of his article was inaccurate and had been deleted at the request of the father of missing Wuhan student Lin Feiyang, the paper said.
It said police in Wuhan's Jianghan district had detained a male, 39 years old, surnamed Wang, under administrative detention.
"When our son had just gone missing, he interviewed me, and the report came out around the same time," Lin Feiyang's father Lin Shaoqing told RFA on Friday. "Everything [in the article] was factually correct."
Lin went missing after his China Southern flight from Moscow to Wuhan landed in the city in November 2015.
Parents of the missing students say police have been reluctant to accept missing persons reports in such cases, arguing that the students are legal adults who have the right to disappear if they want to.
'They didn't bother looking'
Lin said police had initially run a search of surveillance footage, but investigators had lost track of his son after he entered a blind spot not covered by the city's cameras.
"They didn't bother looking after that, and now the recordings no longer exist, because it was too long ago," he said. "The police claim that there wasn't enough evidence that harm had come to him."
An official who answered the phone at the Wuhan municipal police department confirmed that no missing persons report had been filed.
"There wasn't enough evidence to file one in the Lin Feiyang case," the officer said.
Asked if China's "Skynet," a nationwide urban surveillance network with artificial intelligence capabilities, couldn't have picked him up by now, the official replied: "If you want to find out what happened, you'll have to come here and do it."
Dozens of university students have disappeared in Wuhan between 2013 and 2016, according to campaigning relatives.
The majority were young men of around 20 years of age, with excellent academic records and measuring around 1.8 meters tall, sparking fears that they were being preyed upon for a specific purpose.
Many went missing near the banks of the Yangtze River in Wuhan, according to the father of Xiao Pengfei, who disappeared during his fourth year as a prize-winning scholarship student of bioengineering at the Wuhan University of Science and Technology.
Xiao left his college campus by the back gate on Dec. 31, 2014, made a 10-minute journey on foot to a park on the river embankment, and hasn't been seen since.
"We were able to trace my son leaving the campus and spending some time by the riverside, but I couldn't see anything, because it was dark," Xiao's father told RFA.
"Some of the parents of the missing students are beginning to think that their organs were taken and their bodies disposed of later," he said. "They all went missing in the same area, on the edge of the Yangtze River bridge."
Warnings against interviews
Shuai Jinfu, father of Shuai Zongbin, a fourth-year student at the Wuhan University of Technology, also stood by Wang's article, saying he knows of at least a dozen families with missing Wuhan university students.
"The police are saying that this is rumor-mongering now, but it isn't," Shuai told RFA. "There are 17 or 18 families in our group chat for people with missing kids [in Wuhan],"
"We went to the police at the time, wanting them to search phone records or [social media], but they refused to accept the case, or they couldn't find him," he said.
"The whole group went to petition at the Hubei provincial government in March, and we were received by a couple of department heads, but nothing has happened since," Shuai said.
Police have already warned some family members of missing persons not to give interviews to overseas media.
"They won't let us give interviews," one family member said when contacted by RFA on Thursday.
Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wong Siu-san and Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.