China journalist with rumored link to Xi petition is missing

AP News
Posted: Mar 19, 2016 3:46 AM

BEIJING (AP) — A Beijing-based journalist linked with an online petition calling for the Chinese president's resignation has been missing since Tuesday, and his family has no way of finding him after police and airline officials denied knowledge of his whereabouts, according to his lawyer.

Jia Jia, who has been linked by Hong Kong media reports to an anonymous online petition asking President Xi Jinping to step down, disappeared Tuesday from the Beijing airport on his way to Hong Kong.

The lawyer, Yan Xin, said he could not confirm that the government is holding Jia because authorities at the airport, local police, immigration services and the airline have all denied knowledge of his case.

One of Jia's friends said the writer denied he had anything to do with the petition in a large online group chat with friends before he disappeared. But they believe that his disappearance has to do with the petition, which surfaced briefly on a government-linked news site earlier this month during China's parliamentary session and attracted intense interest among watchers of elite Chinese politics.

The petition criticized Xi's handling of economic and domestic political affairs and noted that more and more factions of the Communist Party oppose the president's tightening grip over speech, the government bureaucracy and dissent within the party.

Political analysts believe the petition, which was signed "Loyal Communist Party Members," struck a raw nerve precisely because there are genuine hints of resistance to Xi's rule within the uppermost ranks of the party.

Chinese police are required by law to notify family of a detained person within 24 hours unless the case endangers state security. Detainees in politically sensitive cases are frequently held much longer without any official acknowledgment.

"The authorities will only answer our questions if we have a case to refer to but we haven't received any notification of a case," said Yan, who described the situation as "Kafka-esque."