The Chinese government arrested Xiang Nanfu, a “senior reporter” on the New York-based website Boxun.com, for publishing stories about the government that “seriously harm the country’s image,” according to Xinhua. Xiang is accused of writing stories of police brutality, government organ harvesting, and burying people alive.
Sixty-two-year-old Xiang is alleged to have confessed to publishing false information on the website, thus “causing mass protest outside United Nations organizations in China.” In addition to organ harvesting stories and “burying people alive,” Xinhua claims Xiang wrote “false reports about land expropriation and violence by police and beating of a petitioner.”
According to Bloomberg, Boxun denies many of the accusations. In a statement, the website’s leaders state that Xiang’s reports were true: “We noted that recently many Chinese netizens and dissidents have been detained by authorities, this is a clear sign of the rapid deterioration of human rights in China.” They deny that they ever published any stories on organ harvesting or mass protests before the United Nations.
In addition to accusing Xiang of fabricating rumors, Xinhua notes that he had previously been arrested for theft. The Xinhua report also takes an extremely sharp turn away from government complaints online toward the end of the article, where they accuse Xiang of having “improper relations” with women through the site and soliciting prostitutes.
The claim that Xiang had ties to prostitution echoes that of the arrest of Chinese-American blogger Charles Xue. Xue was arrested for generally being a threat to the state and accused of soliciting prostitution, as well. Xue apologized on state television and was eventually deemed too small a threat to keep in prison.
As the AFP notes, the arrests are part of a larger movement that may include “hundreds” of arrests of citizens journalists and online pundits who dare to defy the government. The crackdown follows the implementation of a new law that allows judges to sentence bloggers to three years in prison for writing “defamatory” messages that spread on the internet–either being reposted 500 times or being viewed 5,000 times.
Those writing do not have to be publishing on established blogs; they could be anyone on social media. Qin Zhihui, another online writer, was arrested on similar charges in April for posting on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter analog. Qin’s arrest followed the announcement of a “Clean Internet Campaign” that allegedly seeks to make the internet safer for users, though the results of the campaign so far have been to detain opponents of the communist government. Qin was specifically arrested for posting “rumors,” both political and those pertaining to “celebrities.”