Journalist jailed for 15-years as Chinese government intensifies free-speech clampdown

WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaUpdated: May 01, 2020, 05:29 PM IST
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File photo of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photograph:(Reuters)

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The court also accused Jien of posting 'false' and 'negative' information online 'to hype relevant cases under the guise of providing legal advice.' 

In one of the harshest sentence in China, the government arrested a journalist on Thursday for "attacking" the ruling party. The journalist has been sentenced for 15-years. 

The government arrested Chen Jien, a former journalist with Communist mouthpiece People's Daily, on the accusation of attacking the ruling party and "picking quarrels and provoking trouble, extortion, illegal business operations and bribery," a court in central Hunan province said in a statement posted online.

The court also accused Jien of posting "false" and "negative" information online "to hype relevant cases under the guise of providing legal advice." 

It said Jien was part of an "evil force" along with his ex-wife and three other people that illegally accrued 7.3 million yuan ($1 million) from their activities.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Defenders watchdog has said Jien was convicted "apparently to punish him for his political speech on WeChat and other social media platforms", calling for his immediate and unconditional release.

The rights group also blamed government authorities of denying a fair trial to Jien.

Jien had been sacked from state media outlets including the China Youth Daily, Beijing Daily, and People's Daily and since then he was publishing online commentaries and investigative reports on social media.

The sentence handed down on Chen Jieren is one of the harshest moves yet against free speech by China's government under President Xi Jinping, who has muzzled the press and ordered Chinese media outlets to serve the ruling Communist Party's interests.

It comes as China faces international scrutiny over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, including questions over whether authorities covered up crucial information that could have prevented it spreading globally.

The charge of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble" is a catch-all that Chinese authorities sometimes use against people who criticise the regime.

(With inputs from agencies)