BEIJING (AP) — Police have detained a Chinese journalist on suspicion of causing trouble after he openly alleged that a senior government official was negligent with his public duties, lawyers said Saturday.
Si Weijiang, a lawyer for Liu Hu, said the journalist was detained by Beijing police Friday at his home in the southern city of Chongqing and taken to Beijing. Liu’s other lawyer, Zhou Ze, confirmed that Liu was in detention in Beijing on Saturday.
Beijing police confirmed Liu’s detention on its microblog, saying he was suspected of fabricating and spreading rumors.
In postings on his personal microblogs, Liu had urged authorities to investigate Ma Zhengqi, deputy director of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, saying Ma was derelict while working in Chongqing. He also shared information that raised questions over possible corruption by other senior government officials. The microblogs were later removed.
While the Chinese government has launched another anti-corruption campaign, it does not tolerate non-approved exposure of possible wrongdoings by government officials and party cadres.
Some members of the Chinese public have hailed the Internet as a new and effective venue to fight corruption, but Si said there are risks in doing so because the authorities are not obligated to initiate investigations into public allegations. “If you don’t have firsthand material, you can be accused of spreading rumors,” Si said.
Zhou said it was unlikely Liu would be charged with causing trouble — a catch-all charge frequently used in China to cover acts disrupting social order — because it is not applicable to online speech. But he said detaining Liu could have a chilling effect to deter others from questioning allegedly corrupt officials in social media.