Chinese authorities have detained a citizen who works for Bloomberg news in Beijing on suspicion of endangering national security, in the latest incident to increase pressure on foreign media outlets in China.
Haze Fan was seen being escorted from her apartment by plainclothes officials on Monday, the news agency said. Her last contact with a Bloomberg colleague that day had been at 11.30am. China’s foreign ministry confirmed her arrest and the charges on Friday.
“Chinese citizen Ms Fan has been detained by the Beijing National Security Bureau according to relevant Chinese law on suspicion of engaging in criminal activities that jeopardize national security,” the ministry told Reuters.
“The case is currently under investigation. Ms. Fan’s legitimate rights have been fully ensured and her family has been notified.”
Fan, who covered global business, had been with Bloomberg since 2017. Like all Chinese nationals working for foreign media outlets in China, she was categorised as a news assistant, not a journalist.
Before that she had also worked for other major international outlets including Reuters, CNBS, CBS and Al Jazeera.
Bloomberg’s editor in chief, John Micklethwait, described Fan as a “talented and integral part of our newsroom” and said in an interview that the news agency would now “work as hard as possible to help her and her family”. The arrest would not change how Bloomberg covered news from China, he added.
This year has seen a sharp deterioration in conditions for foreign journalism in China, with detentions and expulsions shrinking the press corps.
In August of Australian reporter Cheng Lei, who worked for Chinese state-run broadcaster CGTN, was arrested on similar national security charges. In September Australian authorities helped two other journalists leave the country after questioning by state security officials.
And over a dozen journalists working for US media organisations were expelled this year as ties between Beijing and Washington deteriorated.
China now ranks near they very bottom in the World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), above only North Korea, Turkmenistan and Eritrea.
“Foreign reporters trying to work in China are encountering more and more obstacles in the field. More than 100 journalists and bloggers are currently detained in conditions that pose a threat to their lives,” the campaign group said in its latest report on conditions in China.
It has called for the immediate release of Fan, and described the national security charges against her as “appalling”. Fan’s arrest was condemned by Tom Tugendhat, MP and chair of the foreign affairs committee in the UK parliament.
“The detention of another journalist by Beijing’s CCP is very concerning,” he said on Twitter. “Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right. I hope Haze Fan will be released soon.”