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Hong Kong journalists sentenced and jailed in China

Last July, 26, two veteran Hong Kong journalists were sentenced by a court in Shenzhen (China) for “illegal trade” of newspapers. AsiaNews explains they are the publisher Wang Jianming and the director Guo Zhongxiao; they two worked for the monthly ‘New Way’ and for the magazine ‘Multiple Face’, which published topics of politics, gossip, and curiosity on the Chinese leaders, often reporting the internal political struggles of the Chinese Communist Party. The articles were published in Hong Kong, but some copies were marketed in China.
Wang was sentenced to five years and three months in prison, Guo to two years and three months; Wang was also found guilty of two other charges: bid-rigging and bribery. They pleaded guilty in a trial in November last year. The two newspapers were closed.
The defence lawyer of the two journalists, during the trial at Shenzhen’s Nanshan District Court, said that the magazines were printed and legally published in Hong Kong, by the National Affairs Limited company registered in Hong Kong in 2007 by Wang and Guo, who had both acquired the status of Hong Kong permanent residents; their earnings from mainland sales were only 66,182 yuan (HK$76,923), and, as reported by Initium Media, the two magazines were only sent to eight people on the mainland. Their lawyer argued that the business involved less than 150,000 yuan (HK$174,327), the minimum amount required for the illegal business offence, and they had not seriously disrupted the market, another requirement for the offence.
According to the Association of Hong Kong reporters, the ruling is another blow to press freedom in the territory;  this episode seems to remind the disappearances and the detentions of the five publishers of books, happened last February, 18; that time, publishers from around the world urgently requested the authorities of Hong Kong, especially to the leader of Hong Kong, Leung Chun-ying, to ask China to release the five employees of Mighty House publishing house, put on trial for criminal offenses. According to Askanews, last February an open letter was sent by international associations of publishers and booksellers :

“This case is a terrific message for writers, publishers and booksellers in Hong Kong that tackle politically sensitive issues and undermines individual freedoms and the safety of citizens”.*

And Lam Wing-kee, detained for eight months on charges of conducting illegal business, declared:

“the Chinese government thus not only restricts the freedom of expression in Hong Kong, but it also destroys the principle ‘one country, two systems'”.

Sources: AsiaNews, Hong Kong Free Press, Prima on line

*(text available on the PEN American Center website)

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