First the writer, now printer of book on corruption detained

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 September, 2010, 12:00am

A Hebei printing house manager has been detained by Shaanxi police after helping a writer to publish a book that criticised widespread government corruption and wrongdoing during the Sanmen Gorge Dam project in Shaanxi in the 1950s.

Zhao Shun, the manager of a printing plant in Jiuzhou township, Langfang , was taken away by policemen from Weinan , Shaanxi, at the weekend, the writer's lawyer, Zhou Ze , said yesterday.

The book's author, Xie Chaoping , was taken from his Beijing home by plain-clothes officers from Shaanxi province on August 19.

The book, Great Migration, exposed officials' embezzlement and the predicament of villagers who were forced to move to make way for a dam project.

The writer has since been detained in Weinan and is likely to be charged with conducting illegal business operations.

The detention of the printing house manager has sparked widespread criticism, with many liberal scholars accusing the authorities of acting as if the Cultural Revolution never ended by punishing authors for their opinions.

Mainland internet users poured ridicule on the authorities, asking whether police officers wanted to detain the proofreaders and typesetters from the printing house, too.

Zhou said police had made Xie identify a picture of Zhao.

'I have also been told by the writer's wife that the manager was detained several days ago,' he said.

Staff from the printing house said several workers had also been placed under investigation by Shaanxi police and that Zhao had failed to turn up for work after the authorities declared the book was an 'illegal publication'.

'His mobile phone was either turned off or we couldn't get through during the past month. His family told us that he was taken by police,' a printing house worker was quoted by Caijing magazine as saying.

Peking University law professor Zhang Qianfan criticised Shaanxi authorities for being far out of line in their widening clampdown on unfavourable opinions about officials. 'The intention of detaining the printing house manager is questionable,' he said. 'Apparently, officials tried to cover up the truth over alleged corruption and wrongdoings by harassing the writer and the printing house.

'Detaining the manager is a terrible development. A reform to transfer the right of arrest and detainment over similar cases to the Supreme People's Procuratorate is necessary, to reduce the harassment of independent writers.'

Xie, 55, a former journalist from the Beijing-based Procuratorial Daily, spent three years interviewing victims of the Sanmen Gorge Dam project.

Farmers believe they were cheated by the Weinan government in Shaanxi, which deprived them of their land and took away compensation allocated by the central government.