Germany-based Chinese journalist’s family ‘detained at birthday banquet’ after he writes about politically sensitive disappearance of columnist

Deutsche Welle commentator Chang Ping says his parents and siblings were taken away in Sichuan and asked about an article he wrote about detained Beijing journalist Jia Jia

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 March, 2016, 12:32pm
UPDATED : Monday, 28 March, 2016, 8:47pm

A Chinese journalist based in Germany says members of his family have been detained by police in China after he wrote a commentary about the highly politically sensitive disappearance of a Chinese columnist.

Chang Ping, a commentator at German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, said his parents, two brothers and a sister were taken away by the police in Sichuan province’s Xichong county on Sunday. They were attending a banquet for Chang’s father’s birthday.

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His parents were released on Sunday afternoon, but his siblings were still in custody as of Monday, he said.

Police alleged the family had set off firecrackers and damaged the environment during tomb-sweeping activities, Chang said.

But during questioning, Chang’s family members were asked about an article he had written about the detained journalist Jia Jia, he said.

Jia writes for Tencent Online and was released after 10 days of detention this month.

Rights activists allege his detention may be linked to an open letter published on a government-linked website, Wujie News, calling for President Xi Jinping to resign. The letter was quickly removed from the website.

The BBC reported that at least 16 people at Wujie had been taken away for investigation after the letter was published.

Chang said in his commentary that Jia was taken away for the “crime of seeing” and described the disappearance as an “abduction” by the authorities.

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Chang said soon after the commentary was published on March 19 at Deutsche Welle, his family members and relatives were approached by police asking for his contact details in Germany.

Police also asked his family members to tell him to stop writing articles that were critical of the Chinese authorities and to also take down the article he wrote earlier.

Xie Lei, a publicity officer at Xichong’s public security bureau, said Chang’s family was linked to a forest fire on Saturday in Guanziya village in Fujunxiang in the county.

Police went to the scene on Monday morning to investigate the case, Xie said.

Police posted about the case on weibo in the early hours of Monday, alleging that the family’s misuse of incense caused the fire, which spanned an area of 40 mu, or about 2.7 hectares.

More details on the case might be revealed later, Xie said.

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“My family members are innocent. They are not in any way related to my work. This kind of detention without legal grounds is appalling,” Chang said.

He said he had no connection to the open letter apart from his column and media interviews on the subject.