A journalist in China has been accused of “leaking state secrets” after he exposed the grisly case of a government employee who dug a basement and used it for the kidnapping and rape of six women, two of them were murdered.
Ji Xuguang, a reporter with the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily, documented how the young women in Luoyang, Henan Province, were kidnapped and imprisoned as sex slaves by an employee of the Luoyang Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision.
Li Hao, the man, spent a year digging the dungeon in his home in a crowded residential area. Escorts at karaoke bars became his quarry.
By the time police took Li into custody in early September two of the women had been killed—one by Li and the other by another of the women with Li’s help. But four were rescued. Their ages ranged from 16 to 24.
The women had been imprisoned from three months to two years, and some had developed Stockholm syndrome toward their captor: they would vie for his favor and refer to him as “big brother.”
Despite the ghastly details of the case local Communist Party officials, fearing political trouble, kept it a secret. Ji said that one police officer told him that the local government wanted to “save face.” Luoyang was applying for the title of “Nationwide Civilized City,” and they also worried that the cruel nature of the incident could cause residents in the area to panic.
Ji wrote that on the same day that when his report was published, two men, who declined to identify themselves, came into his hotel room and aggressively interrogated him about the source of his information. They also accused him of “leaking state secrets.” He later learned that they had been sent by local Communist Party officials.
Ji sounded the alarm about the encounter on his microblog at 11 p.m. that night: “Judging from the situation, I may be taken away. Please watch out for me and rescue me.” Security forces in China are known to use extralegal means to intimidate, beat, or kidnap journalists who report on what are considered political matters.
He said that the case was being treated with extreme secrecy by Luoyang police authorities, with only a few directors in the department let in on the full details.
Radio Free Asia (RFA) contacted Ji on Sept. 23. He said that he had already left Luoyang but that his phone was probably being monitored, and he didn’t want to discuss how he was threatened.
“Without freedom of the press, journalists’ safety is at stake. I am not in a position to talk about the situation any further,” he told RFA.
On his microblog Ji wrote that when he left Henan that night, his wife’s brother, concerned for his safety, packed a knife for him. “I am tearful after realizing how vulnerable my profession is. I realized that we [reporters] are so weak and helpless. With the accusation of “leaking state secrets” pinned on me, can this piece of metal [the knife] really protect me?”
His blog posts were forwarded over 16,000 times and received thousands of comments. Many expressed skepticism at the idea that this sort of crime could be legitimately classified a “state secret.”
“The local authorities’ being unnerved about this makes me wonder if there’s something behind this case,” wrote one blogger.