China launches crackdown on letter calling on President Xi to resign

At least 20 people have been detained by Chinese authorities in a roundup of suspects linked to the publication of a letter calling on President Xi Jinping to resign, human rights organizations said on Saturday.

Wen Yunchao, an influential blogger and government critic, said on Friday that his 65-year-old mother, 72-year-old father and 41-year-old younger brother were taken away by police in Guangdong province, southern China, on March 22.

In a move that highlighted Beijing's increasingly confident intervention against critical voices overseas, police targeted New York-based Wen, an influential Communist Party critic with more than 220,000 Twitter followers.

Wen, 45, denies any involvement in the dissemination of the anonymous letter posted March 4 on Chinese media website Wujie (Watching) News, demanding Xi step down.

The open letter, signed "loyal Communist Party members" and accusing President Xi of building a "personality cult", has since been deleted from the Internet.

Wen said on March 17 that his father and brother were forced to contact him and pressure him to disclose what he knew. Wen's brother was told he would lose his job as a local government driver if Wen didn't comply, human rights groups said.

Earlier this week, the editor-in-chief of the Wujie News website, Ouyang Hongliang, was taken in for questioning along with other staff members, associates told US-based broadcaster Radio Free Asia.

Citing an anonymous source in the Wujie News newsroom, the BBC reported that up to 16 staff – six from editorial and 10 from technical support - have been taken away.

On March 15, Jia Jia, a Beijing-based freelance writer, disappeared while preparing to board a flight from Beijing to Hong Kong. He was released on Friday.

His lawyer Yan Xin told the Committee to Protect Journalists that he had been detained on suspicion of drafting the letter.

"Detaining family members of independent journalists living outside China is nothing but blackmail. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of Wen Yunchao's parents and brother," said Robert Mahoney, deputy executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, in a press release.

"China is clearly resorting to such tactics at home to intimidate critics abroad."

Last update: Sat, 26/03/2016 - 13:01

More from World

Naked Trump sculpture fetches nearly 22,000 dollars at auction

A life-size street art sculpture depicting a fully naked Donald Trump has sold at auction for approximately 22,000...

Cameroon rescuers find more bodies after train crash

Two days after the derailment of a passenger train claimed more than 70 lives in Cameroon, rescuers were searching...

Journalists arrested in Burundi not from BBC, broadcaster says

Two journalists who were arrested in Burundi were "not on assignment" for the BBC, the British broadcaster told dpa...

Worker dies at World Cup stadium in Qatar

A worker has died in a "work-related" incident at a stadium in Qatar, local organizers for the 2022 World Cup said...

Islamic State militants launch counter-attack in western Iraq

Islamic State forces launched an attack in western Iraq Sunday, an apparent response to an ongoing government...