China journalist jailed as free-speech clampdown intensifies

Published: May 1, 2020  Updated: May 1, 2020 at 8:23 am EST

A journalist who had worked for some of China’s most powerful propaganda outlets has been jailed for 15 years after being accused of attacking the ruling Communist Party, court documents showed.

The sentence handed down on Chen Jieren is one of the harshest moves yet against free speech by China’s government under President Xi Jinping, who has muzzled the press and ordered Chinese media outlets to serve the ruling Communist Party’s interests.

It comes as China faces international scrutiny over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, including questions over whether authorities covered up crucial information that could have prevented it spreading globally.

Chen, a former journalist with Communist mouthpiece People’s Daily, was convicted Thursday of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble, extortion, illegal business operations and bribery,” a court in central Hunan province said in a statement posted online.

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