Tiananmen Square crackdown

Xiang Nanfu, journalist for Boxun website in the US, detained

Xiang Nanfu is accused of selling fabricated information to website, but some observers fear it is part of a wider crackdown on dissent

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 May, 2014, 3:04am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 May, 2014, 6:34pm

Police in Beijing have detained a man for allegedly selling and posting "fabricated information" to an overseas news website.

Analysts said the detention of Xiang Nanfu was part of attempts by the authorities to stifle dissent ahead of the 25th anniversary of the crackdown on the pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Xiang, 62, who lives in Beijing, posted untrue stories on the US-based Chinese-language news website Boxun since 2009 that had "seriously harmed the image of the state", a statement on the Beijing police website said.

He was being held under criminal detention. State television's news channel and its main evening bulletin reported Xiang had confessed. Footage was shown of him in a green prison vest apologising for his actions.

Provoking trouble is a charge used to detain anyone they don't like
Cheng Yizhong, former editor

Boxun, which often reports political rumours alongside its own articles, issued a statement describing Xiang as one of its journalists.

His detention comes after veteran journalist Gao Yu and other prominent civil rights activists were held by police in recent weeks. Gao was accused of leaking state secrets by giving documents to a foreign website. She was also shown on television making a confession.

Civil rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang is in criminal detention in Beijing after he attended a low-key event at a home in the capital to commemorate the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

At least four other people have also been placed in detention after they attended the event.

Xiang was detained for allegedly "picking quarrels and provoking trouble", the same charge made against Pu. "Picking quarrels and provoking trouble is a catch-all charge used by the authorities to detain anyone they don't like, especially outspoken intellectuals," said Cheng Yizhong, the former chief editor of the outspoken Southern Metropolis Daily.

Hong Kong-based political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu said Xiang's case showed Beijing's crackdown against dissent was expanding. "There have been several crackdowns on the mainland over the past year since President Xi Jinping took control over the party," he said.

Xiang was accused of providing false stories to Boxun, including claims authorities had harvested organs and buried people alive, according to police. However, Boxun said the report was only about a protest over the issue held outside the United Nations office in Beijing.

Boxun founder Watson Meng said Xiang backed up many of his reports with photos and video and called him "trustworthy". Meng denied Xiang was paid "large amounts of US dollars" for his reports.

Associated Press, Agence France-Presse