China: founder of human rights website sentenced to 5 years in prison

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges for the immediate release of Liu Feiyue, founder of a Chinese human rights information website, who was sentenced today to 5 years for “inciting subversion of state power.”

On 29 January, the Suizhou Intermediate People’s Court in central China (Hubei province) sentenced citizen-journalist Liu Feiyue, 48, founder of human rights website Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch (also known as Minsheng Guancha) to 5 years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power” and “publishing articles that opposed the socialist system.” 

“The charge of inciting subversion is a baseless accusation that the Chinese authorities had used repeatedly to dissuade journalists from their duty of providing information, especially when it relates to human rights”, said Cédric Alviani, the head of Reporters Without Borders (RSF)’s East Asia bureau. “We urge Beijing to immediately free Liu Feiyue and all other journalists and bloggers detained in China.”

Liu Feiyue was arrested on November 17, 2016, ten days before the arrest of Huang Qi, RSF award laureate and founder of another human rights website, 64 Tianwang. The  journalist, who is seriously ill and victim of torture, was put on trial last week on the charge of “divulging state secrets abroad” but no verdict was reached. In December, after a petition filed by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), four UN experts called on China to release him.

On 28 December 2018, Liu’s fellow colleague, Ding Lingjie, was sentenced to 20 months in prison for sharing a video satire of president Xi Jinping on social networks.

China holds the highest number of journalists in prison, with at least 60 currently behind bars. China ranked 176 out of 180 in the 2018 RSF World Press Freedom Index.