International PEN is seriously concerned by the conviction of freelance journalists Qi Chonghuai and He Yanjie, who were convicted and sentenced to four and two years in prison respectively on May 13, 2008, for blackmail and extortion. PEN sources suggest that the charges may be fabricated, leading to concerns that the journalists are targeted for their critical reporting on official corruption. PEN fears that Qi Chonghuai and He Yanjie may be held solely for peacefully exercising their right to free expression which is protected under Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory. PEN therefore seeks further information about the charges against the two men, and calls for their immediate and unconditional release pending a review of their case.

Background Information

According to PEN’s information, Qi Chonghuai and He Yanjie were arrested on June 25, 2007, in the city of Jinan, in the eastern province of Shandong, following the publication of an article alleging corruption in the Tengzhou Communist Party, which was published in June 2007 on the Xinhuanet web site. They were both charged with blackmail on August 2, 2007, for allegedly accepting bribes from local officials while researching the article. A photograpgher, Ma Shiping, was also detained for publishing photos in the article. Qi Chonghuai was held incommunicado for the first two months of his detention, and claims to have been repeatedly assaulted and threatened by security guards throughout his 11-month pre-trial detention. The case was turned back to the police for further investigation by the prosecution in February 2008 for lack of evidence. The trial on May 13 at the People’s Court of Tengzhou City, Shandong Province, reportedly did not comply with international standards of fairness. Both men are held at the Tengzhou City Detention Center, Shandong Province.

Qi Chonghuai, aged 43, had been journalist for 13 years before his arrest. From 2004 to 2006, Qi worked for various publications, including the Shangdong Zhoukan (Shandong Weekly), the Renmin Gong’an Bao (People’s Public Security News), and the Zhongguo Anquan Shengchan Bao. In June 2006, he started work as director of the newspaper Fazhi Zaobao (Legal System Morning News), which ceased publishing in December 2006 and was reformed with its existing staff as the Fazhi Ribao (weekend edition of the Legal System Daily). He has also worked as special correspondent with the Fazhi Zhoubao (Legality Weekly) and the Jizhe Guancha (Journalist Observer). Qi is known for his reporting on corruption and social injustice in Shangdong province both in the Chinese and overseas media, and is said to have been repeatedly warned by the authorities to cease such reporting prior to his arrest.

He Yanjie, aged 40, is a freelance reporter and was working as Qi’s research assistant in the investigation of local corruption and injustice prior to his arrest. With Qi, he co-authored a number of reports in various newspapers and online media outlets. He formerly worked for the Shandong Gongren Bao (Shandong Workers Daily) and the Zhongguo Yancao Bao (China Tobacco Post).

Write A Letter

  • Expressing serious concerns that Qi Chonghuai and He Yanjie may have been sentenced for their critical writings on corruption, and seeking further information about the basis for the charges against them;
  • Expressing alarm at reports that they did not receive a fair trial, and calling for their immediate and unconditional release pending a full review of their case;
  • Calling for a full and transparent investigation into the reported assaults on Qi Chonghuai while in detention so that those reponsible may be brought to justice.

Send Your Letter To

His Excellency Hu JintaoPresident of the People’s Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032
People's Republic of China

Her Excellency Ms. Wu Aiying
Minister of Justice
10 Chaoyangmen Nandajie
Beijing-shi 100020
P.R. China

Procurator General Mr. Cao Jianming 
Supreme People's Procuratorate
Beiheyan Street 147
100726 Beijing
P.R. China

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for China in your country if possible.

Please contact PEN if sending appeals after June 20, 2008: