China Releases Two Citizen Journalists, One Still Held

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Chinese paramilitary police march on Tiananmen Square toward the Mao Zedong mausoleum (R) in Beijing, Dec. 26, 2013.
Chinese paramilitary police march on Tiananmen Square toward the Mao Zedong mausoleum (R) in Beijing, Dec. 26, 2013.

Authorities in the Chinese capital have released on bail two rights activists detained on public order offenses, but a third remained behind bars, fellow activists said on Tuesday.

Liu Xuehong, Xing Jian and Wang Jing, activists who are also citizen journalists, were all criminally detained by Beijing police last month on suspicion of "stirring up trouble" after they posted reports and photos on a self-immolation and other protests on Tiananmen Square.

Liu and Xing returned home on Monday after being released on bail, Xing told RFA in an interview on Tuesday. But Wang remained in detention.

"We were granted bail by the Beijing No. 1 Detention Center at around 10:00 a.m. [on Monday]," Xing said. "They made me sign ... [various] documents."

"Then police from our hometown in Xi county [in the central province of Henan] put handcuffs on us and dragged us off to the Beijing west railway station and escorted us home," he said.

"Then they took us to a police station in rural Xi county and issued me with a warning, and put my contact records on file," he said.

Xing, who has pursued a long-running complaint against local officials over farmland taken from his parents, said he often files reports of incidents involving petitioners to the website of the Sichuan-based rights group Tianwang.

He said he believed his most recent detention was linked to reports in overseas media, based on his posts.

"When I was getting out of the detention center, the police there told me not to have any contact with foreign media, because they all have ulterior motives, and they're not interested in helping protect our rights," Xing said.

"Most importantly, they didn't want me to have any more contact with Huang Qi, [founder of] the Tianwang website," he said.

"If I did, they could put me back in jail at any time."

He said Liu was released late on Monday evening, under similar conditions.

"But we still don't know what has become of Wang Jing," Xing said. "It seems she has been taken back to a detention center in the jurisdiction [of her hometown]."

Calls to Liu Xuehong's cell phone resulted in a switched-off message on Tuesday.

Under pressure

Hong Kong-based fellow activist Wang Yan, who is a personal friend of Liu's, said she had been severely restrained during her time in the detention center.

"Her hands and feet were bound together with leg irons and handcuffs as well, that were tied to each other," Wang Yan said.

"She told me it took four or five people to carry her to the bathroom every time she needed the toilet."

Meanwhile, Liu's Beijing-based lawyer Li Jinglin said police had tried to put pressure on her to name Huang Qi as the "orchestrator" of her actions.

"They were asking her about the photos she took of people handing out [protest] leaflets during the annual parliamentary sessions, and that she posted on the Tianwang website," Li said.

"But how is posting something on the Internet 'stirring up trouble'?"

Xing said the police interrogating him had taken a similar line.

"They wanted me to give evidence against Huang Qi," he said. "They kept asking me whether Huang Qi was directing me from behind the scenes."

"They said Tianwang has links to overseas news agencies and to anti-China forces."

Li said the tactic was a common one when the state security police are trying to pin a case on a particular individual.

"It's clear that the police were trying to get them to name names," he said. "Even if the other person is innocent, they will try to pin all manner of things on a specified individual."

Still detained

Li, who is also representing Wang Jing, said he had traveled to her hometown of Jilin in northeastern China in a bid to visit her in the detention center, but to no avail.

"I wasn't able to see her, so I made a complaint about the detention center to the local court, but they wouldn't accept the case," he said.

"There is no legal reason for them to refuse me permission to meet with her."

Wang Jing's Jilin-based mother Sun Yanhua said her daughter was "safe," but said it was "inconvenient" for her to comment further, suggesting she may be under tight surveillance.

On March 5, Wang Jing reported seeing police and a water truck rush to Tiananmen Square at around 11:00 a.m. to extinguish flames on a woman who had set herself alight, sending a plume of smoke into the sky near Tiananmen Gate.

"There was smoke coming from near the Jinshui Bridge, and I ran over to see what was happening," Wang Jing told RFA in an interview at the time.

"I saw white stuff [extinguisher foam] everywhere; you couldn't see the person, and then they started to clear the area and the police wouldn't let people take photos," she said.

She said police had snatched her cell phone after she began recording video on it.

Wang Jing said a group of police officers had appeared very soon after the woman caught fire, and put out the blaze with fire extinguishers.

Tianwang relies on a far-flung network of volunteers for its reports of rights violations and protests across China.

Several other volunteer citizen journalists, including Jiang Chengfen, Li Chunhua and Yang Xiuqiong, are already in detention, awaiting trial on similar charges, according to the group.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Hai Nan for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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