Police detained Chen, a journalist working for the state-run 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, news 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 denied the allegations.
Chen was summoned to a Guangzhou police station on October 18, 2013, 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, saying he was being held on criminal charges of “damaging commercial reputation,” the Hong Kong-based China Media Project reported.
After failed attempts to secure Chen’s release behind closed doors, The New Express published a front-page appeal for his release, marking one of the few times a Chinese newspaper has openly demanded the release of one of its journalists. The paper’s editors said they had thoroughly vetted Chen’s stories and found only one factual error.
However, on October 26, 2013, Chen appeared in handcuffs on China Central Television (CCTV) and confessed to having filed false information in exchange for money. He said the stories on Zoomlion had been written by someone else, according to news reports. The CCTV broadcast did not name the intermediary who allegedly bribed Chen or offer any evidence or details on the amounts received. According to Caixin magazine, a close-up shot of Chen’s signed confession aired during the CCTV interview clearly showed the name of Zoomlion’s chief competitor, Sany Heavy Industry Co.
The New Express subsequently published an apology. The official All-China Journalists Association, which had pledged to investigate Chen’s arrest, condemned his actions, the China Media Project reported.
No information about a trial had been disclosed in late 2013, and it was unclear where Chen was being held. His lawyer could not be reached.