Taipei, Taiwan – A reporter with Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post has gone missing in China after a work trip, a Japanese news outlet has reported, raising fears that she has been detained by Chinese authorities.
Minnie Chan, an award-winning reporter specialising in Chinese defence and diplomacy, travelled to Beijing to attend the Xiangshan Forum but became unreachable after the end of the three-day security conference on October 31, Kyodo News reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter.
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The South China Morning Post (SCMP), which is owned by Chinese tech giant Alibaba, told Al Jazeera that Chan is on personal leave. It said that her family had informed the newspaper that she is safe in Beijing but asked for her privacy to be respected as she “needs time to deal with a private matter”.
“The safety of our journalists in the course of their professional work is the of utmost importance to the South China Morning Post,” the SCMP said in an emailed statement. “We will continue to communicate with Minnie’s family and provide all the necessary support they need.”
Chan has worked for the Post since 2005, according to the newspaper’s website. Her most recent article published on November 1 discussed China’s mediating role in the war in Gaza.
A Facebook friend of Chan told Al Jazeera that her WhatsApp account showed her as last online on the afternoon of November 2 and said her recent activity on Facebook was “very strange”.
Chan’s last Facebook post is dated November 11 and features holiday photos, in contrast to her usual posts featuring her latest articles and commentary written in Chinese. Chan has not responded to comments on her last post from friends asking about her whereabouts.
Andrei “Pinkov” Chang, a Chinese military expert who knew Chan professionally, wrote in a public Facebook post that Chan was always “very polite” and would respond to his messages but had stopped doing so in November.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association said in a statement on Friday that it “is deeply concerned for Minnie’s safety” and it is requesting more information from the Post.
China was the world’s worst jailer of journalists last year after Iran, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, with at least 43 reporters in custody in December of that year.
Chinese police can detain a suspect for up to 37 days before making an official arrest, after which time the suspect can be detained for a further 13.5 months before formal charges are made by prosecutors, according to a Canadian travel advisory.
China’s courts, which are under the control of the ruling Communist Party, have a nearly 100 percent conviction rate for those who go on trial.