BEIJING Aug 3 A Chinese investigative
journalist who accused officials of corruption has been released
after almost a year in detention, his lawyer said on Sunday.
Liu Hu, a reporter with the Guangzhou-based newspaper New
Express, was arrested on a charge of defamation last September.
His lawyer Zhou Ze said prosecutors had called him to say
that Liu was being released as they were "unable to proceed with
the case within the legal detention limits".
Writing on his Weibo microblog account, Zhou said: "I have
always believed that Liu Hu was innocent."
Liu was first detained last August on suspicion of
"fabricating and spreading rumours" after accusing a deputy
director of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce,
a business regulatory body, of dereliction of duty while serving
as Communist Party secretary of a district in southwestern
Zhou had called the charge a "speech crime" and said the
government could be targeting Liu because he had detailed
specific allegations against a number of officials, including
some in senior positions, in many provinces.
President Xi Jinping has made fighting graft a priority of
his administration and has specifically targeted extravagance
and waste to quell public anger over corruption and restore
faith in the ruling Communist Party.
The government had encouraged the use of the internet to
expose graft, but has detained activists who called for
officials to publicly disclose their assets and cracked down on
what it calls "rumour-mongering" in what is widely seen as an
effort to halt criticism of the party.
Wary of threats to its authority or social stability, the
party has also stepped up its already tight control over social
media to limit public discussion of sensitive political issues.
High-profile bloggers and investigative reporters have said
the campaign's effect has been to force them to curtail
sensitive postings for fear of detention.
Lawyers and activists have called the crackdown a
significant if crude expansion of powers to police the internet
and a blow to those who use microblogs to disseminate
information in the belief that they are not monitored as
strictly as traditional media.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Lynne O'Donnell)