Baoting Li and Miao Autonomous County, Hainan Island, China. Photo by: Anna Frodesiak.
An award-winning forest activist, Liu Futang, is facing trial in China for printing books without the proper licenses, even though he says he gave most of the self-published books away for free. In April, Futang won Best Citizen Journalist in China’s Environmental Press Awards for covering deforestation Hainan province on his blog. Seven months later and the 63-year-old, who suffers from diabetes, could face five years in prison.
Through his blog and books, Futang shone a light on the destruction of Hainan’s coastal forests for hotels, apartments, and golf courses since the 1990s to create a new tourist mecca. More recently he wrote a book devoted to plans to build a coal plant against the community of Yinggehai’s wishes, entitled The Tears of Hainan II. Experts believe that the arrest was in retaliation for Futang’s criticism of powerful players in the region.
“Liu’s only crime is trying to tell as many people as possible about what he has learned from his research. His trial is an attempt to deter all citizen-journalists and get them to censor themselves,” a statement from the NGO, Reporters without Borders, reads.
But the government says Futang was arrested for running an “illegal business,” including printing 18,000 books. While most were given away free, the government says Futang’s daughter sold 14 online.
Futang was arrested while being treated for diabetes and high-blood pressure in Haikou Hospital. Funtang’s son has said that his father attempted suicide after being arrested.
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