An investigative journalist working for Guangzhou-based newspaper New Express has been arrested by Chinese authorities for allegedly spreading corruption rumours against high ranking officials.
Liu Hu was arrested while at home in the city of Chongqing on Aug 24. He was formally charged with defamation, "fabricating and spreading rumors," on Sept 30, his lawyer Zhou Ze, said.
"I think they chose Sept 30 to approve the arrest because everyone was on holiday, no one was paying attention," Mr Zhou said. The holiday the lawyer referred to was the country's National Day holiday, a seven-day break that officially began the following day.
Mr Liu, in his blogs in July and August, exposed the alleged corruption of high-ranking officials, including four at vice-ministerial level, gathered from the different provinces across China.
Mr Liu had specifically dropped the name of Ma Zhengqi, deputy director of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, as neglecting his post when he was still party secretary of a local district in Chongqing.
Mr Liu claimed Mr Ma waived further investigation into the privatisation of two state-owned companies in his local district. According to the South China Morning Post, Mr Liu wrote that local civil servants were able to buy the contested assets for only 1.7 million yuan ($277,955), when their declared value was higher at 27.7 million yuan.
A program director sets the task for TV journalists (Wikimedia)
Mr Liu's arrest and subsequent charges were a "speech crime," noting government officials are getting even on the journalist because he explicitly gave names and specific allegations.
"It's impossible that passing on this information constitutes the deliberate spread of false information or the intentional fabrication and transmission of information," Mr Zhou said. "Therefore it doesn't constitute defamation."
Mr Liu's microblog account has since been deleted.
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