Skip to main content

China newspaper makes bold front-page plea for journalist's release

By Katie Hunt, CNN
updated 4:55 AM EDT, Thu October 24, 2013
China's New Express newspaper made a bold front-page plea for the release of one of its reporters.
China's New Express newspaper made a bold front-page plea for the release of one of its reporters.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Chinese paper New Express calls for journalist's release
  • Chen Yongzhou was arrested for damaging a business' reputation
  • He wrote series of articles alleging false sales at a construction equipment maker
  • Chinese newspapers rarely challenge authorities

Hong Kong (CNN) -- "Please set him free" read the plea in stark black print on the front page of the New Express newspaper based in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.

In a bold move, the paper openly defied Chinese authorities this week by asking for the release of one its reporters, who has been detained by police in Hunan province.

The move garnered sympathy online and China's media regulator vowed to protect "lawful reporting rights," according to the state-run China Press and Publishing Media group.

Chen Yongzhou was arrested on Saturday, police in the provincial capital Changsha said, months after the newspaper ran stories by Chen that claimed that a Hunan-based company Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science & Technology falsified sales numbers.

The state-run company, which did not respond to a call for comment, makes construction equipment.

China gets tough on foreign television
Reports: China censored newspaper

The police said he had been arrested for damaging a business' commercial reputation, without giving further details. A police spokesman in Changsha contacted by CNN declined to comment.

In May, Zoomlion temporarily suspended trading in its Hong Kong-listed shares to address allegations made in one of Chen's articles. In a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange, it said that all allegations relating to fictitious sales were "false, groundless and misleading."

The paper said on Wednesday that it had verified all of Chen's stories about Zoomlion and only found one discrepancy: He wrote the company spent 513 million yuan on advertisements, when that money had been spent on "advertisements and entertainment."

"If Brother Policeman can find any evidence of shabby reporting on our part, please make notice of it and we will gladly doff our hat," the newspaper said according to a translation published by the University of Hong Kong's China Media Project.

"Because we still believe that — some day, at least — you will have the same full respect for the law that we have."

Open resistance by Chinese media against intimidation by authorities is rare but not unprecedented.

In January this year, crowds gathered in Guangzhou in support of a protest by journalists against alleged government censorship. Journalists at the Southern Weekly paper claimed that an editorial calling for political reform was rewritten by censors as a tribute to Chinese Communist Party rule.

READ: Chinese journalists in rare protest against censorship

The New Express released a statement from Chen's wife, who said that Chen was taken from his home in a black Mercedes Benz with Hunan license plates. "My... life stopped at the moment," she said.

On social media site Weibo, Chen's colleagues described him as a talented and hardworking business reporter, who ate instant noodles and couldn't afford to take his wife to Pizza Hut.

"We are very grateful that the society has given a lot of attention on this," a spokesperson for the New Express newsroom told CNN.

CNN's Feng Ke in Beijing contributed to this report

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
See CNN's complete coverage on China.
updated 3:12 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
All you need to know about the tainted meat produce that affects fast food restaurants across China, Hong Kong, and Japan.
updated 10:30 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Some savvy individuals in China are claiming naming rights to valuable foreign brands. Here's how companies can combat them.
updated 5:11 AM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Is Xi Jinping a true reformist or merely a "dictator" in disguise? CNN's Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz dissects the leader's policies
updated 11:44 PM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
updated 2:31 AM EDT, Fri July 4, 2014
26-year-old Ji Cheng is the first rider from China to compete for competitive cycling's highest honor.
updated 7:24 AM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, may not yet be a household name outside of China, but that could be about to change.
updated 12:14 AM EDT, Fri July 4, 2014
Hong Kong's narrow streets were once a dazzling gallery of neon, where banks and even bordellos plied their trade under sizzling tubular signs.
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
updated 7:59 AM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
Three more officials have been given the chop as part of China's anti-corruption drive, including former aides to the retired security chief.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
As thousands of Hong Kongers prepare for an annual protest, voices in China's press warn pro-democracy activism is a bad idea.
updated 12:37 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Hong Kongers are demanding the right to directly elect their next leader, setting up a face-off with Beijing.
updated 2:56 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
The push for democratic reform in Hong Kong is testing China's "one country, two systems" model.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Along a winding Chinese mountain road dotted with inns and restaurants is Jinan Orphanage, a place of refuge and site for troubled parents to dump unwanted children.
updated 4:36 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
CNN's Kristie Lu Stout invites Isaac Mao, Han Dongfang, and James Miles to discuss the rise of civil society in China and social media's crucial role.
updated 11:34 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
Chen Guangbiao wants rich people to give more to charity and he'll do anything to get their attention, including buying lunch for poor New Yorkers.
updated 7:44 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Architects are planning to build the future world's tallest towers in China. They're going to come in pretty colors.
updated 7:47 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
Anna Coren visits Yulin's annual dog meat festival. Dogs are part of the daily diet here, with an estimated 10,000 dogs killed for the festival alone.
updated 2:38 AM EDT, Thu June 19, 2014
People know little about sex, but are having plenty of it. We take a look at the ramifications of a lack of sex education in China.
updated 4:12 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
Hong Kongers have reacted angrily to a Chinese government white paper affirming Beijing's control over the territory.
The emphasis on national glory -- rather than purely personal achievement -- is key.
updated 12:14 PM EDT, Mon June 16, 2014
A replica of the Effel Tower in Tianducheng, a luxury real estate development located in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang province.
What's the Eiffel Tower doing in China? Replica towns of the world's most famous monuments spring up all over China.
updated 8:13 PM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
Rapid development hasn't just boosted the economy -- it has opened up vast swathes of the country, says a man who has spent much of his life exploring it.
updated 2:54 AM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
The World Cup is apparently making a lot of people "ill" in China.
ADVERTISEMENT