China and Vietnam are Asia’s leading jailers of journalists, with at least 48 now held in China and 12 held in Vietnam, a media freedoms watchdog group said in a report issued on Wednesday.
In China, the number has increased “as President Xi Jinping consolidated political control of the country and instituted ever tighter controls on the media,” New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in its year-end annual report.
Dozens of journalists have been arrested amid on a crackdown in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, “where a million members of Muslim ethnic groups have been sent to internment camps,” CPJ said, adding that some of those arrested appear to have been jailed for work done years before.
“Of the four affiliated with the state-owned Kashgar Publishing House, which issued books and periodicals on topics including politics and legal and demographic developments, to editors had retired at least a decade earlier,” CPJ said.
In Hong Kong, a Chinese freelancer formerly employed by Chinese news outlets was arrested in October after blogging her impressions of the pro-democracy protests that have rocked the city since June, CPJ said.
Sophia Huang Xueqin has now been charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble, a common anti-state allegation levied against critics whom the ruling Chinese Communist Party view as a threat.”
Vietnam meanwhile remains “Asia’s second-worst jailer after China, with 12 behind bars,” CPJ said in its report.
Those held include RFA contributors Nguyen Van Hoa, arrested in January 2017, and Truong Duy Nhat, who was abducted in January 2019 in Thailand after applying for asylum and brought back to Vietnam by force.
Others now held in Vietnam include Voice of America reporter Le Anh Hung, freelance reporters, and journalists employed by religious and anti-corruption newspapers, CPJ said.
Vietnam has been consistently rated “Not Free” in the areas of internet and press freedom by Freedom House, a U.S.-based watchdog group.
Dissent is not tolerated in the communist nation, and authorities routinely use a set of vague provisions in the penal code to detain dozens of writers and bloggers.