Chen Yongzhou, 27, confessed on China Central Television he was paid to publish articles about Zoomlion, a Chinese heavy machinery manufacturer, of fraud.
Between September 2012 and June 2013 Chen published articles about Zoomlion’s manipulating the market by lying about their profits. Police say he was legally detained on October 18, but questions were raised when it was revealed the police traveled from Changsha, Zoomlion’s home city 440 miles away from Chen, who is based in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. The license plate revealed the car that took Chen belongs to the company. Zoomlion has many connections to the government in the Hunan province. The Telegraph reports the CEO used to be head of the supreme court and his father-in-law used to the deputy party secretary and the company is partly owned by the government.
Chen appeared on TV in handcuffs and police said he is charged with damaging the company’s “commercial reputation.”
Mr Chen, who appeared in handcuffs, said on the CCTV broadcast that he did not write the articles himself. “I am willing to confess and repent my crimes, and I would like to apologise to Zoomlion, its shareholders, the media groups whose credibility suffered [because of me] and my family.”
“I did this mainly because I hankered after money and fame. I’ve been used. I have realised my wrongdoing.”
According to CCTV, an unnamed third party paid Mr Chen to write the articles about Zoomlion. He admitted on air that on one occasion he did not “take a single look” at the report that was to be published under his name.
His tabloid then took a risky step by dedicating two days to Chen on their front page. On Wednesday the front page said RELEASE HIM. On Thursday it said AGAIN, WE ASK FOR HIS RELEASE. Both issues contained editorials that demanded more press freedom in China. While it may not appear to be a big deal to Americans this defiance is considered brave in China. Communist China is often ranked at the bottom when it comes to freedom of the press. The organization Committee to Protect Journalists says China is third in the world when it comes to imprisoned journalists behind Turkey and Iran. President Xi Jinping’s administration is only a year old and even though he promised reform, journalists are noticing things will not change for them. In fact anyone from bloggers to the lawyers critical of his regime are lying low because they could face jail. His confession also brought back bad memories.
Many pointed out that the parading of Mr Chen in front of the rolling cameras of CCTV – before he has even been charged or tried by the Chinese justice system – evoked chilling reminders of the public “criticism and attack” sessions of the Cultural Revolution.
The New Express reviewed his articles and found only one error. The Beijing News came to Chen’s defense and demanded the police reveal the evidence against him. Another popular blogger pointed out journalists at state run media outlets such as China Central Television are not arrested when they make mistakes.