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

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

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