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Chinese media worker detained for three months without charge

http://www.zeit.de/feature/freedom-of-press-china-zhang-miao-imprisonment

This statement was originally published on ifj.org on 20 January 2015.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly criticizes the illegal detention of a Chinese media worker for three months without reason and threats to a German journalist that her visa would be revoked for not assisting police investigations as well as allegations for spying.

According to the Chinese Foreign Correspondents Club (FCCC), Angela Köckrtiz, the China correspondent for German-weekly, Die Zeit, and her assistant Zhang Maio travelled from Beijing to Hong Kong to cover the Occupy Movement protests on September 24, 2014. On October 1, Zhang returned to Beijing and Köckrtiz remained in Hong Kong. On October 4, Köckrtiz returned to Beijing to find that Zhang had been arrested and held in police custody since October 2.

Zhang was arrested for 'inciting a public disturbance' after she went to visit the family of a poet arrested for supporting the Occupy Movement in Hong Kong. This charge is generally levelled against Chinese nonconformists. When Köckrtiz tried to further investigate the charges levelled against Zhang, she herself came under strong scrutiny from the Chinese government and security forces. During police interrogation they questioned Zhang's WeChat messages sent while in Hong Kong, accusing the pair or organizing the protests in support of the Occupy Movement. Köckrtiz was threatened with 'trouble' when she was due to renew her visa next year as well as insinuating she was a spy. Following days of interrogation, Köckrtiz decided to leave China and return to Germany.

Miao Zhang, 40, had been working for Die Zeit as Köckrtiz's assistant for two years after she returned from Germany. Her lawyer was finally allowed to see her on December 10, more than two months after her initial detention. Zhang's lawyer said she was suffering physically and psychologically but that her spirits were high.

The FCCC condemns, in the strongest terms, the intimidation of one of its members in this outrageous way. We hope that our members will continue to report on Zhang Miao's detention and treatment.

The IFJ Asia Pacific office said: "The continued detention of Zhang highlights the key failures with the Chinese justice system. It also illustrates the risks that Chinese nationals are faced with when working for foreign media companies. Zhang has been arrested and detained in an attempt by authorities to intimidate her and others."

"Press freedom continues to be an overarching issue for China with journalists and media workers facing a number of challenges regularly," said the IFJ.

On January 26, the IFJ will release their annual Press Freedom in China Report for 2014, which explores the challenges to press freedom and issues for journalists in China. Visit the IFJ Asia Pacific website for the up-coming report.

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