Thursday, 24 October 2013

Please, Release Him

The New Express calling for the release of Chen Yongzhou again
For the second time in two days, a Chinese paper in Guangzhou has called for the release of one of its staff from police detention.

On the front page of The New Express it says "再请放他" or "Again, Please release him", referring to Chen Yongzhou who was taken away by police last Friday and has not been heard from since.

He had written about a construction equipment company called Zoomlion that is partly owned by the Hunan provincial government. After one of several articles Chen wrote, Zoomlion issued a statement claiming that the story improperly accounted for sales, causing its shares to drop.

In a statement to the Hong Kong Exchange in late May, the company described the claims as "false, groundless and misleading".

Yesterday the newspaper's front page read: "Please release him" and since then many other well known media people such as commentator Li Chengpeng and Global Times Editor-in-Chief Hu Xijin have called for Chen's release as well as many other Chinese major state media papers.

Even the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television issued a statement saying it was "very concerned" about Chen's detention, as well as China's publishing regulator, the General Association of Press and Publishing.

Chen is being held in a detention centre in Changsha, Hunan province, on charges of "damaging the commercial reputation" of Zoomlion. The company said it filed a police report on Wednesday, arguing his investigative reports alleging financial fraud was incorrect and damaged Zoomlion's reputation.

The police say they will be pursuing the case, while the media have been placed on a gag order, and tens of thousands of comments on microblogs have already been deleted.

This case will be interesting to watch because if Chen's reports are correct, it will be pitting journalistic integrity against Zoomlion's guanxi to see who will win out in the end. It seems the company is trying to strong arm Chen into surrendering, but with so much media support for him, there will be pressure for the authorities to play by the rules.

We hope Chen is mentally strong and knows there are others out there trying to help him at least have a fair hearing in the court of public opinion.

We need more courageous journalists like him to root out the truth and more bold media outlets like The New Express to help us know what's really going on in China.

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