It must feel like the other shoe has finally dropped for journalist and blogger Zhu Ruifeng, who exposed the seedy sex life of Chongqing official Lei Zhengfu, after police visited him in his home in Beijing, in typically aggressive fashion.
“They are standing outside my door right now, knocking and even kicking the door, telling me to open it,” he said in a frantic phone call to a reporter.
As he talked, men could be heard shouting in the background. “I think they’re coming to take me away,” Zhu said. “I talked to too many in the media, and it must have irritated someone.”
The late-night standoff at Zhu’s home lasted more than two hours, ending when he promised to show up Monday morning at a nearby police station. And it illustrates the perils and possible limits of an anti-corruption campaign launched in November by China’s new leaders.
Whistleblowers and muckrakers, at first given a surprising amount of breathing space by Chinese authorities usually quick to clamp down on anything resembling real journalism, are apparently falling prey to the old Chinese saying “Wait to settle your scores until after the autumn harvest.”
The men said they had come from a local Beijing security station, but Zhu suspected that they were from Chongqing and that their intent was to take him away and recover the five additional sex tapes he had threatened to release.
Recently, he said, a source told him that Chongqing authorities had destroyed all other recordings related to the extortion case in an attempted coverup, leaving only the video Zhu had made public.
Zhu told reporters that he’s sent copies of the videos to friends overseas, with instructions to release them should he go “missing”. While Zhu seems to have survived the first skirmish with Chongqing officials unscathed, he’s not out of the woods yet.
Subsequent calls to Zhu on Sunday night went unanswered, but he posted a message online saying that police had agreed to meet him and his lawyer at the station Monday morning and that they had left minders at his home.
In later posts, media professor Zhan Jiang said he had checked on Zhu at his home, and lawyer Wang Peng said he visited Zhu and saw a police car with Beijing plates stationed outside.
Chen Yizhong, the groundbreaking Chinese journalist and founding editor of the Southern Metro Daily and the Beijing News, was initially left unmolested after he broke the story of Sun Zhigang’s death in a migrant worker custody and repatriation jail, but later received four months in prison.