China newspaper apologises over reporter
‘New Express’ had appealed last week for Chen Yongzhou’s release from detention
Journalist Chen Yongzhou is escorted by police officers at the Changsha detention centre in Changsha City, Hunan Province. Mr Chen was arrested last week on charges he defamed state-owned construction equipment maker Zoomlion. He has confessed on state television to accepting bribes for fabricating stories, despite a public outcry over his detention. Photograph: China Central Television via Reuters TV
Guangzhou-based newspaper New Express has run a front- page apology for apparent misdeeds by one of its reporters, just days after it had appealed for him to be freed when he was detained on suspicion of damaging the reputation of a state-owned enterprise.
On Wednesday, New Express called for Chen Yongzhou to be let go after he was detained for writing a series of damaging articles about one of China’s biggest heavy equipment makers, the largely state-owned Zoomlion.
It looked like a rare act of defiance by a state-owned newspaper in the face of a crackdown on the media.
However, on Sunday, the newspaper pulled a complete about-face, running a front-page apology after the state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) ran a story showing a handcuffed and shaven-headed Mr Chen confessing to running a series of untrue stories alleging financial crimes by Zoomlion “to gain money and fame”.
Mr Chen said he had been supplied negative stories about Zoomlion to run by unspecified “other people.”
“I did not check the content of these articles and only made minor changes,” Mr Chen told local police. “I used some vague words so that I and the New Express would not be targeted.”
He wanted to apologise and “learn a lesson from myself”.
New Express is one of China’s more audacious papers. It offers cash to readers with stories and its aggression has been noted over the years.
The paper said a preliminary police investigation foundMr Chen had been incited by others to publish numerous false reports in exchange for cash and was critical of its own editorial stance for not carefully reviewing his articles before publishing, saying it had learned a “profound lesson”.
The CCTV report showed Mr Chen speaking in prison uniform from a detention centre in Changsha, where Zoomlion is headquartered.
Mr Chen had written more than 10 articles accusing Zoomlion of losing state assets, unusual sales practices and false financial reporting, which hit the company’s stock price. He confessed on TV he received €58,000 to report Zoomlion to regulatory agencies in Beijing and Hong Kong.