New Express makes plea for reporter's release

Updated: 2013-10-24 07:10

By An Baijie in Beijing and Feng Zhiwei in Changsha (China Daily USA)

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A newspaper in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, published a front-page plea on Wednesday asking for the release of one of its reporters detained by Hunan police.

In a front-page article with the headline "Please set him free", New Express called for police in Changsha, Hunan province, to free journalist Chen Yongzhou.

Changsha police arrested Chen at his home in Guangzhou on Friday morning, months after the newspaper printed a story by Chen on May 27 that claimed Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science & Technology Development, a Changsha-based company, falsified its sales numbers for the first three quarters of last year.

Chen's story said that several of Zoomlion's subsidiaries took advantage of the exaggerated figures to sell nearly 800 million yuan ($131.36 million) in company shares on the secondary market. Zoomlion, with more than 30,000 employees, recorded a sales income of 90 billion yuan last year, according to its website.

The Changsha police department confirmed the arrest on its micro blog on Tuesday night.

In its front-page article, New Express said it verified all of Chen's stories about Zoomlion and found only one inaccuracy: Chen wrote that the company spent "513 million yuan on advertisements". The paper said the company spent that amount "on advertisements and receptions".

The newspaper also apologized for keeping silent for days after Chen's arrest and said, "We were really timid, selfish and shameful". It is demanding that the police disclose all of the evidence against Chen or release the reporter immediately.

Du Feng, an assistant to Zoomlion's chairman of the board, confirmed to Beijing News on Wednesday afternoon that the company called the police over Chen's stories. Du added that Changsha police will release details about the case to the public but did not go into further detail.

Xiang Bo, deputy director of the publicity department of the Changsha Public Security Bureau, said on Wednesday that the bureau is still investigating the case and it will hold a news conference "at a proper time" to address public concerns about the case.

On July 10 and 11, Gao Hui, another assistant to Zoomlion's board chairman, said on his micro blog that Chen had made libelous comments about the company, causing Zoomlion's stock prices to drop. Gao also released Chen's personal information, including his Chinese resident ID number and press pass number.

Luo Changping, a senior editor of Caijing Magazine, said police do not have the right to supplant the court in civil disputes. He expressed support for the newspaper's strong statement and said the All-China Journalists Association should not keep silent over the issue.

The association has contacted the Ministry of Public Security, demanding that Chen's personal safety be ensured and that he be treated fairly in accordance with the law, according to China Press and Publishing Journal on Wednesday, quoting an official at the organization.

New Express, known for its investigative journalism, is popular among readers in the Pearl River Delta region. The newspaper declined to comment about the case when contacted by China Daily on Wednesday.

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(China Daily USA 10/24/2013 page4)