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

    US, Somalia Launch New Chapter in Relations

    US sends first ambassador to Somalia in 25 years; diplomatic presence and forces pulled out in 1993, after 18 US soldiers were killed when militiamen shot down military helicopter

    Brexit Vote Ripples Across South Asia

    Experts say exit is likely to have far-reaching economic, political and social implications for a region with deep historic ties to Britain

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapides’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora