Detained activist Jiang Tianyong’s father is attempting to sue two Chinese newspapers for defamation over their reports on Jiang.

Jiang Lianghou wrote a complaint against Legal Daily and the Procuratorate Daily, two state-run outlets covering legal developments in the country.

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Jiang Tianyong. Photo: RFA.

Jiang is a prominent rights activist and former lawyer who recently advocated for the families of those detained in China’s crackdown on lawyers and rights activists. He went missing during a trip to Changsha in November and police recently confirmed that he is in custody. The family received notice from Changsha police on December 23 that he is being held in residential surveillance under suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power.”

On December 16, multiple mainland news outlets including Legal Daily and the Procuratorate Daily reported the same story under different bylines, saying that police said Jiang had been receiving foreign funds for a long period. He also spread rumours online and “incited petitioners and the family members of those involved to resist state authorities and interfered in legal cases, severely disrupting order in society and creating a negative social influence,” the reports said.

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Chen Jinxue and the document from authorities refusing his request to meet with Jiang. Photos: Weiquanwang.

In his complaint, Jiang’s father alleged that parts of the reports concerning the revoking of Jiang’s lawyer’s license in 2009 and some of the negative language used would mislead readers and lower Jiang’s reputation in society. Jiang’s lawyer Chen Jinxue visited a Beijing courthouse to file the case in December, but it was rejected. He submitted the documents again by mail on Tuesday.

A request from Chen to meet with Jiang in December was also refused by the authorities. They said in a written response that the meeting was refused because Jiang is suspected of crimes that threaten the country’s security and that allowing Chen to meet with Jiang may interfere with the investigation and state secrets may be leaked.

Jiang’s family still does not know where he is being held, his father told US-backed outlet Radio Free Asia.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.