The Nikkei Japanese news agency was on Wednesday formally notified of the detention of its Chinese news assistant two weeks after she was taken from her home by Chinese security agents.
The detention is part of a pattern of arrests of civil rights activists and increased pressure on the international media ahead of next Wednesday’s 25th anniversary of the massacre of student and worker protesters in Tiananmen Square.
Xin Jian, who has been working for the Nikkei since 2004, was being held on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles”, the Nikkei said.
“Reports that her detention was connected with an interview she had conducted with human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, himself now under arrest, raise the disturbing possibility that she is being punished for the routine discharge of her professional duty on behalf of her employer,” the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China said on Wednesday.
Mr Pu was detained after he and others met in a private home on May 4 to commemorate the anniversary. He faces similar charges to Ms Xin.
This month, Chinese state television broadcast a confession by veteran journalist Gao Yu, 70, that she had leaked a document to an overseas website. Ms Gao was detained after the 1989 crackdown and spent six years in prison in the 1990s.
Police have warned several foreign news agencies against reporting on the 25th anniversary, which falls on June 4.
China’s laws do not allow Chinese citizens to work as journalists for foreign news organisations. However, most news organisations in China, including the Financial Times, work with Chinese assistants employed through a branch of the Foreign Ministry to help with translation, research and setting up interviews.
Additional reporting by Gu Yu