"Please release him": the front page of the Xin Kuai Bao on Wednesday. (Internet photo)
The Guangzhou-based Xin Kuai Bao newspaper has taken a courageous stance by calling on public security authorities to release one of its journalists after he was arrested for writing articles questioning the finances of Chinese construction machinery company Zoomlion.
Chen Yongzhou was arrested on Oct. 19 by public security officials from Changsha, the Hunan provincial capital where Zoomlion is based. Chen had written 15 articles about Zoomlion for Xin Kuai Bao, including 10 between September last year and June. A story published on May 27 this year accused Zoomlion of improper accounting methods, forcing the company to halt trading of its shares in Hong Kong and Shenzhen despite slamming the allegations as "distorted" and "misleading."
A Zoomlion spokesperson confirmed that the construction and sanitation equipment manufacturer filed a complaint against Chen with local police last week.
On Oct. 23, Xin Kuai Bao's front page featured an article defending Chen and with the headline "Please release him" in giant characters. In the article, the paper said that it had carefully combed through the facts in each of Chen's 15 articles on Zoomlion and only discovered one minor factual error.
The paper also cited other media chiefs in support of Chen, some of whom pointed out that if Zoomlion has a problem with Chen's articles the company should have filed a civil suit against the paper rather than calling for public security officials to arrest the journalist.
Chen's wife told reporters that her husband received a phone call from police on the morning of Oct. 17, saying they wanted him to clarify some matters. He went to the local police station the next morning accompanied by his wife and was confronted by officers from Changsha, who produced a piece of paper outlining the crimes he was accused of before quickly taking him away. She said she received a call from him 36 hours later telling her that he had been arrested for damaging Zoomlion's commercial reputation and asking for her to retain a lawyer. She said she has not seen him since.
Chen Yongzhou 陳永洲