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Journalist under house arrest after 20 days in detention, materials seized

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders condemns a decision by the Chinese authorities to place a journalist known by the name of Naranbilig under house arrest for a year after holding him for 20 days in Inner Mongolia. It also condemns the 3 May 2008 arrest of writer Zhou Yuanzhi, who may now be charged with "inciting subversion of state authority" as many other Chinese intellectuals and dissidents have already been charged.

"With just three months left to the Beijing Olympic Games, the authorities continue to jail people who express independent or critical views in different parts of the country," the press freedom organisation said. "Whether it is a Mongol journalist or a writer in Hubei province, they are silenced with the same determination. Far from view, the repression continues as the games draw near."

Naranbilig, an independent journalist and human rights activist of Mongol origin, was arrested on 23 March at his home in Hohhot, the capital of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. His family was not informed of his arrest until he was released on bail of 1,850 euros and placed under house arrest for one year beginning on 12 April. The police searched his home, confiscated his computer and many personal documents.

The author of dozens of books and essays about the Mongol minority, Naranbilig edited a monthly magazine called "Golonte" (Family Hearth) that was banned in 2006 after only five issues. An ambassador of Mongol culture and traditions, he represented the Southern Mongolian nomad community in the World Alliance of Mobile Indigenous People (WAMIP).

According to the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Centre (SMHRIC), he was arrested in an attempt to suppress the issue of minorities in Inner Mongolia, as has already been done in Xinjiang, in the north, and Tibet, in the west. Inner Mongolia's leading political prisoner, the Mongol journalist Hada, has been detained since 1995 and is serving a 15-year sentence for "separatism" and "spying." His family recently complained about the appalling conditions in which he is being held and the deterioration in his health.

A writer and journalist aged 47, Zhou was arrested with his wife on 3 May in Zhongxiang, in the central province of Hubei, by the city's State Security Bureau. According to the Independent Chinese PEN Centre, a writers' association, he has not been seen since his arrest. His wife was released and placed under house arrest. It is impossible to reach their house by telephone.

Zhou was expelled from the Communist Party in 1992 after writing an article for a "Voice of America" publication. The authorities have often criticised him for raising social problems and government corruption in the hundreds of articles he has written. The Zhongxiang police say they have lots of evidence that would allow them to prosecute him on a charge of "inciting subversion of state authority."

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