Friday, June 08, 2007

CHINA: 'Boxun News' reporter arrested by Chinese police

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Boxun News reporter Sun Lin, known by his pen name Jie Mu, and his wife He Fang were arrested by plain-clothed police officers on the evening of May 30 in Nanjing. Fang was released four hours later, but Sun continues to remain in custody. The police also conducted a search of the couple's apartment.

Watson Meng, Boxun News founder, told AsiaMedia that the Chinese police conducted a press conference after Sun's arrest and stated that the Nanjing-based journalist was accused of illegally possessing weapons and heading a criminal gang, charges that could carry a sentence of life in prison or death.

Meng said that Sun is innocent of all charges and that the procedures the Chinese police used to arrest Sun were "illegal." Sun was beaten by police on the day of his arrest and denied visitation with his family, he said on the phone from North Carolina.

"The police did not show any paper work when they were arresting Sun. They just took him away," Meng said.

Officials at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C. could not be reached for comment.

Sun began working for the banned U.S.-based Chinese-language Boxun News last September. According to the Boxun's website, Sun's online video, audio, and written news reports angered the Chinese authorities. One of his most recent reports was about Boxun's inability to gain accreditation to cover the 2008 Olympics, despite the Olympic Committee's announcement of giving greater freedom to foreign reporters for the summer games.

In March, a foreign ministry official visited Sun at his home and warned him to stop working as a journalist and seized his press card. On May 29, the police also detained numerous people for questioning at a cafeteria run by his wife.

Meng told AsiaMedia that Boxun News and Sun's family have legal counsel in China to work toward Sun's release. Meng said, however, that he doubted that Sun would be freed in the near future.

"Because this case is so political, everyone is every sensitive" Meng said.

Media advocacy groups such as Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists are calling for Sun's freedom. Meng said that he had heard of several individuals organizing protests near the prison in Nanjing where Sun is being held, but could not confirm who or when the rallies might happen.

Sun, who is also the founder of the now-banned newspaper Da Du Shi, told Reporters Without Borders in May that he admits to printing stories about abuses of power in China, but claims to have never done anything illegal.
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