Sun, Mar 27, 2016 - Page 1 News List

China frees writer linked to Xi resignation petition

INQUISITION?A number of employees of a Web site that reported on the letter have been out of contact for days and are believed to be under investigation

AP, BEIJING

A Chinese writer linked to the investigation of an online petition calling for the resignation of Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has been released, the writer’s lawyer confirmed yesterday.

Jia Jia (賈葭), who was detained by police on March 15 at a Beijing airport, on Friday night informed friends in a private social media group of his safety.

His lawyer, Yan Xin (燕薪), confirmed that Jia was free, had met his wife and — although he was staying in a hotel — could return home at any time.

“Thank you, everyone,” Jia said. “I dare not forget your concerns.”

Jia, who has declined media interviews, is apparently part of a high-profile investigation into an anonymous letter that criticized Xi’s rule and called for him to step down. It briefly appeared on the government-controlled news Web site Watching.cn early this month.

“We don’t think comrade Xi Jinping has the ability to lead the party and the country into the future. We don’t think he’s suitable to be the general secretary of the party,” said the letter, which was signed by “loyal [Chinese] Communist Party members” and dated this month.

It went on to demand Xi’s resignation, criticizing him for consolidating too much power and making wrong decisions that led to China’s stock turmoil.

Several Watching.cn employees, including CEO Ouyang Hongliang (歐陽洪亮) and two site technicians, have been reported to be out of contact for days and are believed to be under investigation.

Nine technicians of a technology firm that provides support to the site have also been reported missing.

The Chinese State Council Information Office referred inquiries about the letter and Watching.cn to the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda committee for the western region of Xinjiang, which directly supervises the news site, but the propaganda office there claimed no knowledge of the matter.

Chinese overseas media outlets, quoting inside sources, said the news site is falling apart, but its newsroom in a downtown Beijing office building appeared to be operating normally this week.

Its journalists declined to speak to reporters about their editors and the future of the site, which was launched last year to promote Xi’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative. The plan is aimed at increasing China’s overseas investment and trade.

Prominent overseas Chinese activist Wen Yunchao (溫雲超) said he had come under pressure from Chinese authorities to admit his connection to the letter.

The New York-based critic said that authorities in his southern Chinese home county of Jiexi have been holding his elderly parents and a younger brother since Tuesday in an apparent act of coercion.

“I cannot admit things that have nothing to do with me,” Wen wrote on Twitter.

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