05/02/2020, 15.39
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Journalist Chen Jieren gets 15 years for “denigrating” the Communist Party with corruption charges

by Wang Zhicheng

The court also fined him 7 million yuan (US0,000). His brother Weiren was given a four-year sentence and fined 10,000 yuan. This is warning against independent commentators and journalists. China ranks 177th out of 180 in terms of press freedom.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – The Guiyang County Court in Hunan Province on Thursday sentenced Chen Jieren, a journalist, to 15 years for "denigrating" the Chinese Communist Party with frequent charges of corruption against its leaders.

The court also convicted Chen’s brother Weiren and a colleague, Liu Min. All of three posted news, investigative reports and comments dedicated to Chinese society on social media, including WeChat and Weibo.

The accusations against Chen range from "“picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and “extortion and blackmail” to “illegal business activity” and “bribes”. In addition to a prison sentence, Chen Jieren was fined 7.01 million RMB (US0,000). His brother was sentenced to four years in prison and fined 10,000 RMB (US,400), Liu Min was convicted but was not given a prison sentence.

Chen Jieren was arrested in July 2018 after he made allegations that Hunan party officials were involved in corruption. In August 2018, when he and some relatives were detained, Chinese state media launched a smear campaign, accusing him of undermining “the reputation of the Party and the government and damaged the government’s credibility.”

In its ruling, the Court said that Chen “used the information network to publish false or negative information, maliciously exaggerate certain mass incidents, attack and vilify the [Chinese Communist] Party and the government, judicial organs and their staff, instigate troubles, and extort public and private property.”

This is not the first time that Chen Jieren is charged and punished. A graduate of the School of Law of Tsinghua University (Beijing), he has worked as a journalist for several state media.

In 2003 he was sacked by the China Youth Daily for uncovering a prostitution ring involving students at Wuhan University; in 2006 he was dismissed from the China Philanthropy Times for criticising a government portal; in 2011, the People's Daily Online’s Jiangsu Window fired him for "too much criticism of the government".

For the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network, which reported Chen’s conviction, “Chen’s heavy punishment sends a chilling signal to online independent commentators and citizen journalists”.

With respect to press freedom, China is at the bottom, ranked 177th out of 180, this according to Reporters Without Border’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

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