Detained Chinese columnist released

BEIJING • A prominent Chinese columnist has been released after being detained earlier this month, possibly in connection with an online letter critical of President Xi Jinping, his lawyer said yesterday.

Mr Jia Jia, who writes a regular column for Tencent Online, went missing on March 15, around the time he was scheduled to board a flight from Beijing to Hong Kong. His lawyer, Mr Yan Xin, earlier told Reuters police had detained Mr Jia at a Beijing airport.

Mr Jia had warned former colleagues of the danger of re-publishing an open letter calling for President Xi to resign.

Mr Yan yesterday said it was "not convenient" to elaborate on the precise reasons for Mr Jia's detention. He declined to confirm if it was related to the letter.

"He has been released and has already returned home," Mr Yan said, adding that Mr Jia was not available for comment.

Mr Yan earlier said Mr Jia stated he had not written the letter critical of Mr Xi, but expressed concern that something could happen to him because of his warnings to colleagues. The online letter, circulated widely at the beginning of China's parliamentary session this month and signed by "a loyal Communist Party member", blamed Mr Xi for "unprecedented problems".

Mr Jia's disappearance had attracted concern from rights groups like Amnesty International. A New York-based Chinese Internet activist told Reuters on Friday China's authorities had detained three members of his family in connection with the same letter. Reuters could not independently confirm this and police in Guangdong, where the activist's family lives, and Foreign Ministry spokesmen were unavailable for comment.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2016, with the headline 'Detained Chinese columnist released'. Print Edition | Subscribe