China detains foreign website contributor for 'damaging the nation's image'

Xiang Nanfu paraded on national television, accused of publishing false stories on the overseas news portal Boxun

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 May, 2014, 12:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 May, 2014, 10:58am

A retired Beijing resident has been criminally detained for allegedly sharing wrongful information with a widely read Chinese news website abroad and thus harming China’s national reputation.

Xiang Nanfu was held on May 3 in Beijing on charges of “provoking and stirring trouble” for damaging China’s national reputation, state media said on Tuesday.

His posts on Boxun, a Chinese-language news aggregator based in the United States, “seriously harmed the image of the state and caused vile impacts”, the state-run news agency said.

Xiang's apparent admission of guilty was broadcast on national television on Tuesday. “I have smeared the nation and the party, my actions were criminal,” he said in his broadcast admission. “I am sorry to the party and the government, and my family.”

He was also seen on national television admitting to paying for sex and having extramarital relationships. He is the latest in a series of outspoken critics to be paraded on television by the authorities.

Hundreds of bloggers and journalists have been arrested in recent months as part of a government-backed campaign to assert greater control over social  media which has seen influential critics of Beijing paraded on state television.

Most of these articles involved reports about the plight of petitioners who travelled to the capital to ask the central government to look into their legal cases. State media accused him of fabricating and exaggerating the reports.

Among the rumours that Xiang was alleged to have created was that the Chinese government “removed” organs from living people and “buried people alive”, a statement on the Beijing police website said.

Another claim was that more than 1,000 policemen violently expropriated land, including beating a pregnant woman to death, it added.

Boxun’s founding editor Watson Meng said Xiang was a journalist working for the news website, adding that Xiang was the second contributor to be detained this year. The first detention occurred in Beijing in March, he said, but declined to reveal the contributor’s identity.

Xiang has been contributing to Boxun for several years, said Meng. The 63-year-old has written 1,300 articles and photos under the pseudonym Feixiang, according to a report in the Beijing Daily, a mouthpiece of the municipal Communist Party committee.

Under mainland law, police can hold people for up to 30 days in criminal detention before deciding whether to pass the case to prosecutors.

Under regulations announced last September, Chinese Internet users face three years in prison for writing defamatory messages that are re-posted 500 times. Web users can also be jailed if offending posts are viewed more than 5,000 times.