Detained Chinese journalist confesses on state TV, and many are wary

Reuters - Journalist Chen Yongzhou, in handcuffs, is escorted by police officers at the Changsha Public Security Bureau detention center in Changsha City, in China’s Hunan province, in this image taken from China Central Television video shot Friday.

BEIJING — A Chinese financial reporter detained on the suspicion of harming a business’s reputation confessed on state television Saturday that he had been fed untrue information about the company and had
filed unverified stories defaming the company in exchange for money.

State-run China Central Television aired the footage in which Chen Yongzhou, an employee of the Guangzhou-based New Express newspaper, said greed and a desire for fame led him to take bribes and run under his name stories alleging financial misdeeds by China’s second-largest heavy equipment maker, Zoomlion.

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Chen’s detention has caused an uproar among media professionals in China, who worry that police are overstepping their legal jurisdiction in criminalizing civil disputes.

Legal scholars have also voiced concerns about state media airing the confession of a suspect before a court hears the case. Chen has not been charged, as police are still investigating the case.

In the television footage, a shaven-headed Chen, 27, was seen handcuffed and wearing a green vest from the detention center in the central-southern Chinese city of Changsha, where Zoomlion is headquartered.

“I willingly admit the crime, and I repent my crime,” Chen said. “As for those involved in the case — Zoomlion, the credibility of the entire news media, my family and the wounds they are suffering — I am willing to offer my sincere apologies.” He also apologized to Zoomlion shareholders.

The state broadcaster said Chen ran more than 10 news articles between September 2012 and August with fabricated facts saying there had been losses of state assets, abnormal sales practices and false financial reporting by Zoomlion, which caused widespread criticism of the company and resulted in its stock price falling after one particularly damaging report.

Chen said that a middleman bribed him to run the stories and that he filed the stories without verifying them. The middleman was not named.

Chen said he was given $80,000 to report Zoomlion to regulatory agencies in Beijing and Hong Kong.

Following his detention, the New Express made rare front-page appeals two days in a row asking the police to release him.

The Hunan provincial government owns one-sixth of Zoomlion and is its largest shareholder. Zoomlion filed the police report against Chen in September.

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