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Hong Kong: the disappearance of journalist Minnie Chan raises fears of a new purge

From our correspondent in Asia.

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Hong Kong: the disappearance of journalist Minnie Chan raises fears of a new purge

From our correspondent in Asia

A new “disappearance” in China is causing concern a few months after that of Defense Minister Li Shangfu, in a climate of purge within the People's Liberation Army (PLA). Journalist Minnie Chan, a specialist in defense issues, has disappeared from the radar for several weeks, fueling suspicions of being put under investigation by the security organs of the communist regime. The journalist for the renowned daily South China Morning Post (SCMP) in Hong Kong has been “unreachable” since the beginning of November, several of her friends confided, according to the Kyodo News agency. The Hong Kong Journalists' Association said it was "very worried about the security" of Chan, in a climate weighed down by purges and the fight against espionage on the eve of Xi Jinping's third term.

The reporter has not appeared since the Xiangshan Security Forum in Beijing at the end of October, which she covered for her newspaper, making her first trip to the continent since the Covid epidemic. She did not return to Hong Kong with her colleague and her Whatsapp account has no longer been active since November 2, around 2 p.m. according to the Ming Pao newspaper. Since then, his Facebook account has posted posts that bear little resemblance to him, arousing the disbelief of those close to him.

Minnie Chan has taken “personal leave” indicated the SCMP, contacted by the Hong Kong Journalists Association, warning against any “speculation” and “hasty conclusions”. “Her family informed us that she is in Beijing where she has to deal with a personal matter. She is safe and asks that her privacy be respected,” according to the newspaper, which was bought by Alibaba founder Jack Ma, and whose editorial line has gradually bowed to continental censorship on the most common subjects. political, as Beijing brought the former British colony into line in recent years.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing kicked in, claiming “not to be aware”, faithful to its cult of secrecy. A silence that he had already adopted during the disappearance of Li Shangfu, and of Foreign Minister Qin Gang, dismissed from office in July. The regime is adept at placing “suspects” in solitary confinement for long periods of time, requiring them to be interrogated in secret locations, before publicly announcing an investigation.

A Japanese working for a pharmaceutical company was arrested for espionage in Beijing last March, while a new anti-espionage law came into force in July causing concern among international companies based in the world's second largest economy.

This reporter who graduated from the University of Hong Kong (HKU) recently wrote about the ongoing reshuffle in the strategic rocket unit, and the sidelining of Defense Minister Li, whose fate remains unknown today , but would be under investigation for corruption according to the Financial Times. Chan launched his career by covering the crash of the American EP-3 plane in Hainan in 2003, which led to a major Sino-American crisis. Since then, she had woven a rare network of sources within the PLA and defense circles, distiling numerous valuable information on a sector particularly locked down by censorship and defense secrecy. The journalist knew the red lines, and nevertheless avoided any direct criticism of the communist regime.

His unexplained disappearance fuels suspicions of a large-scale purge underway within the PLA in the wake of the affair of the Chinese “spy balloon” shot down by the US Air Force in February, in a context of Sino rivalry - exacerbated American. With the key to a possible distrust of President Xi towards his high command, according to analysts, in the midst of modernizing the PLA, and in the sights of the reunification of Taiwan.

Chan's unexplained disappearance illustrates the “dangers of reporting in China,” said Ronson Chan, president of the Hong Kong Journalists Association. The country ranks 177th out of 180 in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom ranking, and more than 100 journalists are behind bars there according to the association's calculations.

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