Prominent Chinese journalist Jia Jia has mysteriously fallen off the face of the Earth. Friends believe his disappearance may have something to do with an open letter, published on a Chinese website earlier this month, that called for President Xi Jinping’s resignation.
Jia was last heard from around 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday when he called his wife from the Beijing airport as he was about to board a flight to Hong Kong. 15 minutes later, his phone was unreachable. While his plane landed in Hong Kong at 11:30 p.m., Jia never showed up to his friend’s flat where he was supposed to stay the night. He also missed a lunch appointment with another friend the next day, Apple Daily reports via HKFP.
According to China Change, before embarking on his trip, Jia confided to a number of friends that he feared he would soon be detained and questioned.
Jia Jia is a well-known journalist, media personality and social commentator. He publishes a regular column in Tencent Online and is also known for being an avid Twitter user. He hasn’t posted a new tweet since last Saturday.
Friends believe that Jia’s mysterious disappearance may have something to do with an explosive open letter to Xi Jinping that was published online earlier this month. Signed by “loyal Communist Party members,” the letter asks for Xi Jinping to resign “for the future of the country and the people.” It attacks Xi on a number of issues, saying that the Chinese president has “abandoned the principles of collective leadership.”
The letter was published in the early hours of March 4th on the Chinese news website Watching.cn. It quickly went viral and the website was shut down. When the website returned, the article had been deleted. This coincided with the opening day of the “Two Sessions” in Beijing, China’s most important annual political event. Apple Daily reports that the website was likely hacked because ““however dumb watching.cn may be, they wouldn’t be so dumb as to do this.” A cached version of the open letter is still available.
Jia told friends that he learned about the letter on WeChat and contacted his friend Ouyang Hongliang, Executive Director of Watching.cn. Ouyang told investigators that Jia had told him to take the post down. Soon after, Jia’s family members in Shaanxi province were questioned by authorities.
The letter appears to be part of the backlash to a series of high-profile visits that Xi made to state media outlets last month, where he declared that that all media must be “surnamed Party” so they can give “correct guidance of public opinion” by “singing the main theme, transmitting positive energy.”
Influential Weibo celebrity and former tycoon Ren Zhiqiang had his personal Weibo account shut down by censors after criticizing Xi’s treatment of state media in a post. Later, the South China Morning Post also had all its various Chinese microblogging accounts taken down and had its website blocked on the mainland.
Last week, the respected Chinese magazine Caixin took the unusual step to publish an article on its English-language website claiming that State censors had ordered the removal of an interview published on its Chinese-language website that centered around the issue of free speech. That article too was taken down.