For a nation not yet inured to lurid and senseless crime, a report that a former civil servant in central China kept six women enslaved in an underground bunker — and that he killed two of them — was shocking enough.
But perhaps almost as disturbing, at least to some readers, was that the journalist who exposed the crime more than two weeks after the suspect’s arrest was detained by security agents who accused him of revealing state secrets.
After his release from questioning on Thursday, the reporter, Ji Xuguang, wrote an article that accused the authorities of trying to keep the public in the dark about a heinous crime that unfolded less than two miles from the city’s public security bureau.
“I was only thinking about how to make my story as accurate as possible and to satisfy the public’s right to know, but I soon discovered that I failed to address the most important issue — face,” wrote Mr. Ji, a reporter for Southern Metropolis Daily, one of the country’s most aggressively independent publications. “Before the truth becomes a state secret, the public and myself need answers.”
Still, much of the national media on Friday were mesmerized by the horrifying details of the case, which took place in the city of Luoyang, in Henan Province.
According to Mr. Ji’s account, the suspect, Li Hao, 34, kidnapped the women, ages 16 to 24, from the karaoke parlors where they worked and imprisoned them in a 215-square-foot dungeon he dug beneath a rented basement space. Over the course of two years, Mr. Li repeatedly forced the women to have sex with him, Mr. Ji said.
According to a police official who provided details to Mr. Ji, the suspect kept his captives perpetually starved so they would have little energy for escape, but he also gave them two computers on which they could “kill time” by watching movies and playing games. Mr. Li, who is married with an infant son, lived elsewhere in the city.
Mr. Li’s arrest came on Sept. 6, when one of the women escaped and found her way to the police.
Mr. Ji said the rescued women were still in police custody on suspicion that they had a hand in the murders of the two women.
In his posting on Friday, Mr. Ji said he stumbled upon the story this week after spending a few days in Luoyang to investigate the murder of a local television reporter. In his follow-up article, he said his questioners deemed the case a state secret because, he later learned, they feared that its revelation might tarnish Luoyang’s quest to become a “Civilized City” as part of a national competition.