Press Trust of India
Beijing, 26 October: A Chinese journalist, detained over “suspicion of damaging business reputation” of a leading engineering firm, has reportedly confessed to writing unverified and untrue reports and apologised, a media report said today.
Mr Chen Yongzhou, 27, a journalist with the New Express based in the southern city of Guangzhou, confessed to police for continuously releasing a series of unverified and false reports against Zoomlion at the request of others for “money and fame”, state-run Xinhua news agency said.
Mr Chen fabricated facts and wrote 14 reports out of 18 published by the Express from 29 September last year till 8 August this year about Zoomlion’s “financial problems” based on supplied materials, without verification, bringing huge losses to the company and its share prices, Xinhua quoted police officials as saying.
Mr Chen was arrested on 18 October in Guangzhou from Changsha, capital of central China’s Hunan Province where Zoomlion is based.
Mr Chen would like to apologise to Zoomlion, the stock investors and his own family members, and warned his peers to “learn a lesson” from his experience, police said.
The story, written at the request of a middleman, and widely forwarded over the Internet, caused Zoomlion share in Shenzhen to be suspended for two days, arousing industry regulators, shareholders, celebrities and investors to query and criticise the company’s sectors of finance, management and sales.
According to the Changsha City Public Security Bureau, they received complaints from Zoomlion about Chen’s series of false reports on 9 September, and detained him with the help of police in Guangzhou after investigation.
The fabricated problems, including loss of state assets, ugly marketing, sales and financial fraud, were groundless and out of Mr Chen’s subjective assumption, the police said.
The newspaper released a story under Mr Chen’s name on Zoomlion’s advertising fee, claiming the annual amount reached 513 million yuan (USD 84.34 mn) and that irregular marketing practices were involved, they said, adding, he received “rewards” by other people ranging from thousands of yuan to tens of thousands of yuan during this period.
Zoomlion later issued a clarification statement, citing audit reports that the mentioned amount also included the company’s travel expenses and marketing fee in 2012, while the advertising fee only accounted for 20 per cent of the total.
Local police said Chen Mr ignored the audit reports of two accounting firms and published an article in the New Express on 27 May, accusing the company’s central China sales area of filing false sales and financial statements.
However, the New Express, part of country’s official media denied Zoomlion’s accusation, saying Chen’s reports were objective, coming out with a banner headline with an appeal to release him.
“We did not discover Chen did anything that was against professional ethics and laws,” an earlier Xinhua report quoted a senior executive of the newspaper as saying.
Mr Chen’s arrest comes in the backdrop of tightening regulations on the official media and few lakh journalists have been asked to appear for ideological reorientation classes conducted by the ruling Communist Party of China, (CPC).
Mr Chen’s arrest drew unprecedented criticism in the country with the All-China Journalists Association, also an official body, sought convincing explanation from police over Mr Chen’s arrests.
“We hope that related authorities in Hunan will present a convincing and justice-based explanation (on the matter),” it said in a statement two days ago.
According to judicial accounting, the company’s market value in Shenzhen and Hong Kong dropped by 1.37 billion yuan on 29 May, leading to great losses for the stock investors.
Mr Chen confessed to the police that he was “afraid of getting into trouble” after he saw such severe consequences he had caused, the report said.