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China arrests Bloomberg assistant news editor on charge of ‘endangering national security’

Arrest of Bloomberg journalist comes a month after the arrest of an Australian TV news anchor by Beijing on similar national security charges

Stuti Mishra
Monday 14 December 2020 14:36 GMT
File image: China arrests another journalist on charges of threat to ‘national security’
File image: China arrests another journalist on charges of threat to ‘national security’ (Xinhua)

The Chinese authorities have confirmed the detention of a Chinese citizen working for the financial news service Bloomberg, saying she has been arrested on suspicion of “activities endangering national security”.

The government’s first official response on the detention of Bloomberg’s assistant news editor Haze Fan came after it made international headlines, with the EU urging China to release all the journalists it has detained.

China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Monday that “Chinese citizen Ms Fan has been detained by the Beijing National Security Bureau according to relevant Chinese law on suspicion of engaging in criminal activities that jeopardise national security”.

“The case is currently under investigation. Ms Fan’s legitimate rights have been fully ensured and her family has been notified,” Mr Wang said.

Bloomberg issued a report last week saying Ms Fan had been out of contact since 7 December and that it only received word of her detention after days of asking government departments in Beijing and the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC. 

She was taken from her home by plain-clothes security officials last week, according to Bloomberg.

On statements by the European Union and the association of foreign reporters in Beijing expressing concern over Ms Fan's detention, Mr Wang said the EU should "earnestly respect China's judicial sovereignty and stop making irresponsible remarks."

Ms Fan, who covered global business, had been with Bloomberg since 2017. China only permits Chinese citizens to work as translators, researchers and assistants for foreign news organisations, not as registered journalists with the right to report independently.

Chinese media outlets are almost entirely state-owned and tightly controlled, and the country has long been one of the leading jailers of journalists.

Ms Fan’s arrest is an addition to the long list of journalists that have been detained by China in the last few years. Last month Beijing detained high-profile Chinese-born Australian journalist Cheng Lei, a TV anchor at Chinese state-owned outlet CGTN, on similar national security charges. Two other Australian reporters, Bill Birtles, and Michael Smith, also fled China shortly after being interrogated about Ms Cheng.

Over a dozen journalists working for US media organisations were expelled this year as ties between Beijing and Washington deteriorated. The country now ranks near the very bottom of the press freedom rankings at 177 out of 180 countries. 

Additional reporting by agencies

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