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Chinese Journalist Arrested After Exposing Corruption Online

Journalist Liu Hu was formally arrested for accusing officials of corruption seven weeks after his detention on Aug 24, 2013.

Liu, from the Guangzhou-based New Express, had called for an investigation into Ma Zhengqi, the deputy director of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, through his account on popular microblogging site Sina Weibo on July 29. Liu’s posts detail the alleged corruption involving four high-ranking officials.

He has been detained on suspicion of “fabricating and spreading rumours” since, and his Sina Weibo account deleted during his detention. 

Liu Hu’s arrest is the latest crackdown on critical voices in Chinese social media. Some high-profile liberals on Weibo have been warned or detained by the police during the past few months. In September 2013, prominent online celebrity Charles Xue was detained by Beijing police for suspected solicitation of prostitution.

Many journalists and lawyers believe Liu is innocent. Some were shocked by Liu's arrest as they compared Liu with another journalist, Luo Changping, who made similar public accusations in 2012 against Liu Tienan, the deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission. The official was sacked from his post in the end.

Liu Hu

Journalist Liu Hu was arrested after exposing corruption online. Photo from Sina Weibo.

Despite the public anger, the chilling effect of the crackdown has reined in different voices online. A few voices of support online for Liu have been responded with pro-party lecturing, which was believed to be posted by commenters hired by the Chinese government, known as the 50 Cent party.

A Lanzhou-based journalist questioned [zh] why Liu lost his freedom: 

没有嫖娼,没有造谣,没有敲诈,没有其他不法行为,仅仅因为在微博公开了官员涉嫌贪腐,就以触犯寻衅滋事罪被抓捕,且认为取保候审有社会危险性。你们真的怕了吗?可如此处理只能算愚蠢。因为我们关注的不仅仅是刘虎的自由,我们还在关注谁让刘虎失去自由!

No prostitution, no rumors, no blackmail, no other wrongdoing, simply because the microblogging exposes the suspected corruption of officials, and he was arrested disturbing public order with potential danger to the society. Are you really afraid? Do you know this kind of treatment is only considered stupid. Because we are concerned not only with the freedom of Liu Hu, but also why he has lost his freedom!

Her post was soon attacked by “other netizens” with the opposite opinion, to which she responded [zh]: 

只要发个为记者刘虎被捕鸣不平的帖子,就会有大批五毛蜂拥而上发一堆垃圾跟贴。

I just wrote a post to support Liu Hu, but I got bombarded with lots of trash feedback from the 50 Cent party.

Another netizen Hu Ning echoed [zh]:

点了热门话题“刘虎被批捕”,看了搜出来的相关微博下的评论,比转发少不少,且都是些名称诡异、无v认证、甚至连头像都没有的用户所留,立场还出奇地一致。我打了个寒战。

I just clicked the hot topic “Liu Hu got arrested”, but all the related comments are either from some weird names, without any verification. Lot of accounts didn't even have profile photos. The opinions are surprisingly coherent, which made me shiver.

Some netizens have turned to other social media platforms. Lawyer Zhou Lixin analyzed [zh] on his blog:

事实上,北京警方现在这种(一没有对被举报人的清廉作出担保,二又突破法律对举报人追究刑责)做法,才是对党国伟光正形象的严重损伤。因为,这种做法向全体国民传递的信号是:我党的高级官员们不管是有没有贪腐,尔等小民是不能在网上公开举报的;有胆敢在网上公开举报者,记者刘虎遭遇的牢狱之灾就是你们的下场。

In fact, Beijing police's approach destroys the image of the party and the country. First, they did not guarantee the officials’ innocence. Second, they held a whistleblower criminally liable without going through the law. Such an approach sends a signal to all citizens: whether senior party officials are corrupt or not, you can't expose them online, and anyone who dares to do so will end up in jail like journalist Liu Hu.

 On Twitter, “电车痴汉 ‏‪@mrlaoyang” wrote:

刘虎这事儿只能证明工商局长的后台更强大

The arrest of Liu Hu can only prove that the deputy director of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce has a more powerful background.

Another netizen Lily Lee [zh] expressed doubts about the government's determination to fight against corruption: 

这么有正义感的记者被捕,这政府是不是真反腐已经让人看得很清楚了。

They arrest journalists like these with a strong sense of justice, which makes it unclear whether the government is really fighting against corruption.

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