Mainland Chinese journalist Jia Jia was taken away by the authorities at Beijing airport on Tuesday as he was about to board a flight to Hong Kong. His disappearance is believed to be connected to an open letter published on Wujie News earlier this month penned by “loyal Communist Party members”, asking Chinese President Xi Jinping to resign.

Jia’s wife, who is currently in Beijing, said Jia called her at around 8pm on Tuesday to let her know that he had gone through customs and was preparing to board the flight, Apple Daily Taiwan reported. However, 15 minutes later his phone was unreachable. He has not been heard from since.

jia jia
Jia Jia.

Jia was supposed to reach Hong Kong at 11:30pm and then stay with a friend, but he did not arrive. He reportedly also did not turn up for lunch plans with a friend on Wednesday, and his phone cannot be reached, Apple Daily reported. The journalist, usually active on Twitter, has not posted any new tweets since last Saturday.

Jia had revealed to a friend before setting off for Hong Kong that he believed he could be detained, according to Oriental Daily. A relative of Jia’s living in Shaanxi is also reportedly under investigation.

The 35-year-old is a well-known media personality and social commentator, and writes a column for Tencent. He previously worked at Initium Media in Hong Kong and resigned recently to teach at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou.

open letter to xi jinping
The open letter to Xi Jinping.

‘Friend of director’

According to a private message Jia sent to a friend, his disappearance may be connected to an open letter addressed to Chinese President Xi Jinping, published on Wujie News’ website. The letter, posted on March 4, asked Xi to resign “for the future of the country and the people”. Signed “loyal Communist Party members”, the letter criticised Xi’s policies and said he lacked the leadership skills to take the country forward. The letter has since been taken down, but a cached version is still available.

Jia is a friend of Ouyang Hongliang, the Executive Director of Wujia News. Local media reported that Ouyang told the state censorship board he first heard about the matter of the letter from Jia Jia, who warned him to take it down.

The publication of the open letter came weeks after Xi Jinping paid a visit to the headquarters of three state media outlets in Beijing. President Xi said that “media run by the Party and government are propaganda positions of the Party and the government, and they must reflect the Party.”

Earlier this month, two articles in the Chinese business magazine Caixin, criticising censorship by the mainland authorities, were removed from the internet one after another. In February, an editor at mainland paper Southern Metropolis Daily was fired after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s comments on state media were juxtaposed with an image of a sea burial on the paper’s front page.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.