The South China Morning Post has responded to concerns raised over the whereabouts of one of its reporters, saying the journalist is "taking personal leave."
Friends of Minnie Chan raised concerns to the Japanese news outlet Kyodo News about her well being, saying the journalist has become unreachable after traveling to Beijing to report on the Xiangshan Forum.
The three-day international security forum concluded on October 31.
But in an email Friday to VOA, the South China Morning Post told VOA that Chan's "family has informed us that she is in Beijing but needs time to handle a private matter." The statement said the journalist's family has confirmed she is safe but requests that her privacy be respected.
"We will continue to communicate with Minnie's family and provide all the necessary support they need," the statement said. The South China Morning Post also told VOA the safety of its journalists is "of the utmost importance."
Chan is an award-winning reporter from the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong's largest English-language newspaper. She covers defense and diplomacy in China.
Her last story, about China's response to the Israel-Hamas war, was published on November 1.
Chan's friends had told Kyodo News that they were concerned the journalist might be under investigation by authorities. Chan's colleagues at the South China Morning Post have also asked their editors about Chan's whereabouts, according to The Guardian.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington told VOA it has "no information on this specific case."
A reporter at the South China Morning Post for nearly two decades, Chan previously reported for Hong Kong's now shuttered Apple Daily newspaper, according to Chan's LinkedIn page. Authorities shut down the pro-democracy newspaper in 2021 and jailed the founder, Jimmy Lai, on charges that are widely viewed as retaliatory.
International press freedom watchdogs on Friday expressed concern about Chan's case. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists in a statement said that reports about Chan's apparent disappearance "are extremely concerning" and added, "Chinese authorities must immediately disclose her location and guarantee her safety."