Fri, May 05, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Journalist's wife speaks of injustice

EXTORTION TRIAL The wife of detained Chinese journalist Yang Xiaoqing said his lawyers had been denied permission to look at case documents

AFP , BEIJING

A journalist who reported on alleged local government corruption in central China's Hunan Province will go on trial next week without having been able to prepare his defense, his wife said yesterday.

The trial of Yang Xiaoqing (陽小青), who was charged with extortion following his investigations into corruption in Longhui County, will begin on Wednesday, his wife, Gong Jie (龔傑) said.

"He's going on trial but the court has refused his lawyer permission to look at the case documents, so it has been impossible to prepare his defense," Gong said, adding: "This is a complete injustice."

No comment

Officials at the county courthouse were unavailable for comment due to an ongoing seven-day holiday.

Yang, 36, a reporter for the China Industrial Economy News, a newspaper under the Communist Youth Party, was detained in January and formally charged with blackmailing and extortion charges in late February.

According to his wife, Yang last year wrote two reports alleging local officials in Longhui sold a state-owned food company at a hugely discounted price into private hands.

The company was later re-sold at a much higher price with officials and their cronies making big profits, the reports alleged.

Gong said that authorities accused Yang of trying to extort money from local officials over their involvement in the case.

She insisted Yang was innocent and that the authorities were intent on silencing and punishing him.

Overseas media groups have called for his immediate release, with the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists saying this week he would be unable to get a fair trial.

"It is ludicrous to think that Yang Xiaoqing could receive a fair trial in a court that is under the control of the same officials he embarrassed in his reports," the committee's director, Ann Cooper, said in a statement.

"If Yang has been jailed in retribution for his reporting, as it appears, then local officials in Longhui have overstepped their authority and the central government should intervene to ensure Yang's immediate release," Cooper said.

International media watchdog Reporters Without Borders said this week that at least 32 journalists were in prison throughout China as of early this year, and hit out at the government's efforts to quash freedom of expression.

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