News / Asia

Chinese State Media: Growing Concern About Detained Journalist

A screen grab of the New Express front page
A screen grab of the New Express front page
Chinese state media have reported growing concern about a journalist detained last week by police in southern China for his coverage of alleged corruption at a state-owned company.

Chen Yongzhou disappeared last Friday in Guangzhou, where he had written a dozen articles for the New Express newspaper, criticizing the Zoomlion construction company.  Zoomlion is based in the south-central Chinese city of Changsha.

Chinese media said police from Changsha detained Chen in Guangzhou on suspicion of damaging the reputation of a business.  His whereabouts are unknown.

Empathy from Beijing

In reports published Thursday, official news agencies said the Chinese government's media regulator expressed "concern" about the fate of the journalist.

The General Association of Press and Publishing (GAPP) said it "firmly supports the media conducting normal reporting activities ... and firmly protects the legal rights of journalists."

Official news agencies also said the central government-backed All China Journalists Association called on the police to handle Chen's case "according to the law, guarantee the journalist's safety and prevent extorting confessions by torture."

U.S.-based right group, the Committee to Protect Journalists, told VOA it is watching the case with "great interest."

Central vs. local response

Speaking by phone from Princeton, New Jersey, CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz said China's central government has a reason to sympathize with Chen and be critical of the local authorities who detained him.

"In this instance you are looking at a reporter who uncovered corruption, which the government says it's doing on its own anyway," said Dietz.  "And you're seeing the criticism of this move come from the national organizations, from the central government, not from the local authorities who are more beholden to the company officials."

Dietz said the disappearance of Chen appears to be a case of a Changsha-based state-owned company colluding with Changsha police to retaliate against the Guangzhou newspaper.

Mainstream vs. online media

He also said China's central government media censors do not perceive Chen's reporting to be as much of a problem as the work of online 'citizen' journalists.

"Some journalists or writers take a step beyond doing journalism and start to approach activism or organizing people or building a bigger movement.  Many of those being arrested are either Uighur or Tibetan bloggers, expressing Uighur dissatisfaction [with Chinese rule] or the Tibetan drive for independence or greater autonomy.  That's what the government finds intolerable."

The New Express began protesting Chen's arrest on Wednesday, by publishing a front-page message in large characters saying  "Release Him Please."  It followed up on Thursday with a similar front-page plea, saying, "Again We Ask For His Release."

Acts of protest by Chinese newspapers are rare because state authorities often censor stories they fear could cause social instability.

A New Express worker contacted by VOA said all employees were told not to speak with foreign news media, for their own safety.  The employee declined to be identified or to provide any further details.

The U.S. government's Open Source Center says the newspaper's initial headline immediately drew attention from Chinese Internet users and became a hot topic on China-based microblogs.

Public show of support

The chief editor of respected Chinese financial magazine Caijing posted a message on Sina Weibo calling Chen's arrest "arbitrary" and saying it creates "fear" among fellow media workers.

CPJ's Dietz said local newspapers such as New Express are part of an institutional network of organizations that tend to have more freedom to operate than people realize.

"They have a dedicated readership, they meet a need, and I think you have a lot of pressure from the mainstream media consuming public, to deliver good reporting," he said.  "And I think the government at some point has to respect that."

Chen's reports in New Express claimed that Zoomlion artificially inflated its profits, which the company said amounted to $7.6 billion last year.

Zoomlion is listed on the Hong Kong and Shenzhen stock exchanges.  Its share price fell almost 6 percent in Hong Kong on Wednesday, when the New Express published its first protest message.

Accusations and denials

Chinese police have told state media that they believe Chen fabricated facts about Zoomlion's finances in the stories, written between September 2012 and August 2013.  Zoomlion also denies Chen's allegations.

The New Express has said it investigated his reporting and only found one minor factual flaw.

A Thursday editorial in the Global Times, the Communist Party's official mouthpiece, called for Chen's case to be dealt with "according to the law," but stressed the key issue is whether his reports were accurate.

A separate report in the Times, which often reflects government viewpoints, quoted analysts who defended Chen by arguing that even articles with mistaken facts should be protected by the law.

In another high-profile media rights case this year, staff at the relatively outspoken Southern Weekly newspaper in Guangzhou went on a week-long strike to protest government censorship.

The January incident grew into a nationwide online protest against China's strict media controls, with celebrities and other public figures speaking out in support of the newspaper.

William Gallo contributed to this report.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Hostage Crisis Could Divide Japan Over Plans to Boost Military

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday the government is working closely with the Jordanian government to secure the release of remaining Japanese hostage Kenji Goto More

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Country's youngest ever PM Alexis Tsipras, 40, sworn in Monday and says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts More

Multimedia National Geographic Photo Camps Empower Youth

Annual mentoring program's mission is to give young people a voice to tell their own stories through photography More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid