New York, August 31, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the detention of a Chinese journalist who has been held since Tuesday and accused of spreading false information. The Chinese state broadcaster on Monday aired footage of Wang Xiaolu appearing to say that he regrets writing a story about the stock market.
“A statement aired by a state-run broadcaster, before the ‘suspect’ has ever appeared in court, shows the lengths to which the Xi Jinping government will go to intimidate journalists,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz. “We call on Chinese authorities to immediately release Wang Xiaolu.”
Wang, a reporter for the Beijing-based business magazine Caijing, has been placed under “criminal compulsory measures,” which could result in jail, house arrest, residential surveillance, or other actions, according to the state press agency Xinhua. The Chinese government has not disclosed whether Wang has been officially charged, and no publicly disclosed court hearings have taken place.
Wang was taken into custody on Tuesday and accused of “colluding with others and fabricating and spreading false information on securities and futures trading” after he wrote an article published in Caijing on July 20 that said the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) was examining ways for securities companies to withdraw funds from the stock market, according to a Caijing statement. Xinhua reported that the article caused “unusual fluctuations” of the stock market.
On Monday, the official state broadcaster China Central Television aired footage of Wang saying, “Through private inquiring … I acquired the materials and, combining them with my own subjective judgment, I wrote this news report. I shouldn’t have published this kind of report that could have such a significant adverse impact on the market at this sensitive time.” Wang said he was regretful of his actions and pleaded for leniency with the judicial authorities.
Televised confessions are among tactics deployed by Chinese authorities for dealing with journalists who cover sensitive stories, CPJ research shows. In 2013, Chen Yongzhou, a reporter for the Guangdong-based New Express, appeared on CCTV days after his arrest, saying that he wrote false stories for money. About a year later, Chen was sentenced to one year and 10 months in jail. In November, CCTV aired footage of veteran journalist Gao Yu who said she had “leaked state secrets” and that her behavior had “endangered national interest and violated state laws.” She later retracted her confession. Gao was given a seven-year sentence in April.
A Caijing journalist who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal told CPJ, “There isn’t any problem with Wang’s article from the perspective of news reporting. Wang’s arrest is because the authorities want to find scapegoat for the stock market collapse.”
In July, the Chinese government pumped tens of billions of yuan into the stock market through dozens of securities companies, who received funds from the state-owned China Securities Finance Corp (CSFC), to stabilize the market, according to news reports. The Chinese stock market has been very volatile in late August.
Wang is among nearly 200 people Chinese authorities have targeted recently for alleged online rumor-mongering about China’s stock market turmoil, the Tianjin explosions, and the upcoming military parade commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of the World War II, according to The New York Times.