Two Hong Kong journalists were detained in Shenzhen for "operating illegal publications" because they sold political magazines to two subscribers and to casual buyers on the mainland, a lawyer for one of the pair said.
Veteran journalist Wang Jianmin, a publisher of two Chinese-language magazines in Hong Kong, New-Way Monthly and Multiple Face, and his colleague Guo Zhongxiao were detained by police on May 30, Wang's lawyer, Chen Youxi, confirmed yesterday.
Shenzhen police announced the arrests a week ago but did not name the two.
Observers said the charge was merely an excuse to crack down on external publications critical of state leaders. The two publications are among a raft of political gossip magazines popular with mainland visitors to Hong Kong for their wild speculation about power struggles, corruption and the secret lives of leaders.
Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, a professor of political science at City University, said the detention was a warning to publishers.
"I do believe the Chinese authorities are quite concerned [with] their image. They believe the revelations [by those publications] damaged the reputation and image of many top leaders," he said. "Waves of this kind of [crackdown] are substantial ... Just last month, Hong Kong publisher Yiu Man-tin, who is also chief editor of the Morning Bell Press, was sentenced to 10 years in prison by a Shenzhen court."
Yiu was arrested in Shenzhen in October. He was charged with "smuggling ordinary goods". But it is widely believed he was punished for publishing a book by dissident Yu Jie titled China's Godfather, Xi Jinping.
Cheng Yizhong, former chief editor of the outspoken Southern Metropolis Daily, said the cases of Wang, Guo and Yiu indicated the authorities were "using judicial means to curb freedom of speech and freedom of publication".
Chen said Li Daoyan, another lawyer from his firm who will defend Guo, visited both men on Thursday. They tried to apply for bail, but were turned down.
No trial date for Wang and Guo had been set, as the authorities were still collecting evidence, Chen added.
Guo, 38, was born in Hubei province and is a Hong Kong permanent resident, while Wang holds Hong Kong and US passports. But he entered Shenzhen using his home-return permit, according to Chen.
Wang, a graduate of Xiamen University, joined Yazhou Zhoukan, a popular magazine in Hong Kong, in the mid-1990s. He left in 2007 and established New-Way Monthly in 2010 and Multiple Face in 2012. Guo worked in Shenzhen before joining Yazhou Zhoukan in 2004. He resigned last year to rejoin Wang.