What's roiling China's stock market? A journalist, apparently.
Wang Xiaolu, a reporter for a respected Chinese business magazine, "confessed" to causing chaos and panic in the markets, state media reported Sunday.
In footage broadcast Monday morning on CCTV, China's state broadcaster, a weary-looking Wang said he obtained information about China's securities regulator "through private channels" and then added his "own subjective judgment" to the report. "During a sensitive period, I should not have published a report which had such a huge negative impact," he said.
The high-profile — and deeply problematic — forced apology came amid a broader crackdown as Chinese authorities struggle to cope with the fallout from the Tianjin blasts and the ongoing stock crisis. Wang is one of 197 people recently punished for spreading rumors, Xinhua reported.
Since an epic stock boom went bust this summer, China's government has struggled to contain the crisis, ordering the press to downplay the story, and periodically singling out scapegoats, from hostile foreign forces, to "malicious" short-sellers, to the U.S. Federal Reserve and now, the press.
If "privately gathering information" and then adding a "subjective judgment" sounds a lot like good journalism, it is. Wang's crime appears to be publishing accurate information on a matter of public interest — but without a go-ahead from the government.
In a July 20 story in Caijing, Wang wrote that the China Securities and Regulatory Commission (CSRC) was weighing whether to stop stabilizing share prices. The CSRC denied the report the day it was published, calling it "irresponsible."
More than a month later, with the CSRC indeed taking a more hands-off approach, and Chinese markets experiencing another precipitous drop, Wang was detained for spreading "false information."
Reporters Without Borders condemned Wang's detention and called for his release. "Suggesting that a business journalist was responsible for the spectacular fall in share prices is a denial of reality, "said Christophe Deloire, the group's secretary-general, according to a statement published on its Web site.
"Blaming the stock market crisis on a lone reporter is beyond absurd.”
Gu Jinglu reported from Beijing.