Chinese authorities detain Bloomberg news assistant

FILE - In this Jan. 27, 2020, file photo, paramilitary police wear face masks as they stand guard at Tiananmen Gate adjacent to Tiananmen Square in Beijing. U.S. financial news service Bloomberg said Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, that Chinese authorities have detained one of its Beijing-based news assistants on what they said was suspicion of endangering national security. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File) (Mark Schiefelbein, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

BEIJING – Chinese authorities have detained a Beijing-based Chinese news assistant for Bloomberg on what they said was suspicion of endangering national security, the American financial news service said.

Bloomberg reported Friday that Haze Fan was seen being taken from her apartment building by plainclothes security officers at about noon Monday, shortly after her last contact with her editors.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed that the Beijing State Security Bureau had taken steps against Fan, who it said is suspected of engaging in criminal activities that endanger national security. The ministry said in a brief statement that her rights have been fully guaranteed.

The charge of endangering national security is a vaguely defined one that can lead to lengthy detention with little recourse to legal assistance.

China permits Chinese citizens to work only as translators, researchers and assistants for foreign news organizations, not as registered journalists able to report independently. China's own media are almost entirely state owned and tightly controlled, and the country has long been one of the leading jailers of journalists.

Bloomberg said it had been seeking information about Fan's whereabouts from the Chinese government and China's embassy in Washington, D.C. It said its parent company, Bloomberg LP, was informed Thursday that she was being held.

“We are very concerned for her, and have been actively speaking to Chinese authorities to better understand the situation. We are continuing to do everything we can to support her while we seek more information,” an unnamed Bloomberg spokesperson was quoted as saying in the report.

Fan began working for Bloomberg in 2017 after stints with a number of other foreign news organizations in China, the company said.

China has detained news assistants in the past over reports that angered the ruling Communist Party, and authorities have also sought to punish foreign media more generally by limiting their operations, expelling journalists or issuing them only short-term visas.

China expelled journalists from The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times earlier this year amid complaints over content and moves by the U.S. to send home dozens of Chinese journalists working for state media.

Bloomberg saw its business in financial information suffer in China several years ago in apparent retaliation for its reporting on the personal financial dealings of leading Chinese officials.