China: journalist sentenced to three and half years in prison

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the release of Zhou Weilin, a Chinese journalist working for independent human right news website, Weiquanwang, who was recently sentenced to three and half years in prison.

On 29th of July, Zhou Weilin, 56, a journalist working for Chinese-language human rights news website Weiquanwang, was sentenced to three and half years in prison by a court in Feidong county in Anhui province (Eastern China) on the charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. Zhou was secretly arrested in March 2020, and kept in one of China’s black prisons until his trial which began in November.

Zhou Weilin was only serving the public interest by reporting on the human right abuses perpetrated by the Chinese regime and should never have been detained, not to mention receive such a heavy sentence”, says RSF East Asia Bureau head, Cédric Alviani, who calls on the international community “to increase pressure on the Beijing regime so that they immediately release Zhou and all other detained journalists and press freedom defenders.

Zhou, a former employee of a state-owned factory who later became a journalist, was repeatedly arrested and harassed by police. In February 2014, he had been sentenced on the charge of “gathering crowds to disrupt public order” for reporting on the harassment of a human rights activist and his daughter. Zhou is known for using his real name under his articles, and for openly sharing his views on Twitter despite constant threats from the regime.

Chinese-language human rights news website Weiquanwang, which translates to Rights Protection Network, regularly reports on human rights abuses in China by sharing information about arrests, disappearances and illegal detentions of activists and journalists.

China, ranked 177th out of 180 in the 2021 RSF World Press Freedom Index, is the world's largest captor of journalists with at least 125 detained, often in life-threatening conditions.