In China, journalist held for alleging financial wrongdoing

New York, October 23, 2013–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls for the immediate release of a Chinese journalist who has been detained since Friday after publishing a series of reports alleging financial misdeeds at a partly state-owned construction equipment company.

Police detained Chen Yongzhou, a journalist working for The New Express newspaper based in the southern city of Guangzhou, in connection with his reports on the finances of one of the country’s largest construction machinery companies, Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science and Technology Company, according to The New York Times.

Chen had written 15 articles, published between September 2012 and June 2013, that questioned Zoomlion’s revenue and profit figures, reports said. Chen alleged that the company, which is partly owned by the Hunan government, had exaggerated profits and manipulated the market, reports said. Zoomlion has denied the allegations.

Chen was summoned to a Guangzhou police station on Friday, and was then taken into custody by police officers visiting from Changsha, located 700 kilometers (437 miles) to the north. He was put in a Mercedes-Benz and driven away, reports said.

Four days later, police announced his arrest on their official Sina Weibo microblog, stating, “New Express reporter Chen [Yongzhou] was legally detained on October 19 on criminal charges of damaging commercial reputation. The case is now under further investigation,” the Hong Kong-based China Media Project reported.

“Chen Yongzhou’s detention is another blatant attempt to silence reporters who uncover alleged wrongdoing, and underscores the emptiness of President Xi Jinping’s calls for greater transparency,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz.

After failed attempts to secure Chen’s release behind closed doors, The New Express published a front-page appeal for his release today, marking one of the few times a Chinese newspaper has openly demanded the release of one of its journalists, reports said.

CPJ research shows that Chen is the second reporter from The New Express to be detained in recent months. The first, Liu Hu, was detained by Beijing police in late August in connection with comments on his Sina Weibo microblog that accused an official of wrongdoing and called for an investigation.

  • For more data and analysis on China, visit CPJ’s March 2013 special report, “Challenged in China.”