Reporter punished for online remarks on Hilton Chongqing raid

According to a story from China’s Economic Observer, a reporter with the Chongqing Morning Post has been sentenced to labor re-education after posting “unacceptable speech” on the Tianya Forum in the wake of the recent raid on the Hilton Chongqing.

The Economic Observer also said two other reporters from Chongqing Morning Post, a commercial spin-off of the official Chongqing Daily, were taken in for questioning by police after sharing “unacceptable content” (不当内容) through the QQ instant messaging service.

The Chongqing Morning Post has reportedly requested that its employees keep quiet about the matter as they deal with the authorities.

The Economic Observer journalist reported learning from “several channels” that the two reporters taken in for questioning had returned to work. The reporter sentenced to labor re-education, however, would likely be formally charged “owing to the seriousness of the matter.”

Government authorities in Chongqing have made no formal announcement about the actions against these journalists.

The Economic Observer, with offices in Jinan, Shandong Province, and editorial operations in Beijing, is a nationally-circulated commercial newspaper published by the Sanlian Group, which also publishes Lifeweek magazine.

UPDATE: The Beijing News follows up on the Chongqing Morning Post reporters under pressure story today, June 25. The Beijing News has confirmed that Chongqing Morning Post reporters Chen Songbo (陈宋波) and Qiu Jinyi (裘晋奕), and an employee for the paper’s website, Liao Yi (廖异), have been investigated. Chen and Qiu have reportedly returned to work, while Liao is still being investigated.

Special thanks to orangeking for the valuable insight as we’ve followed this story. A portion of the story today from The Beijing News follows:

Yesterday evening at around 6pm, Deng Song (邓松), head of the publicity division of the Chongqing Municipal Public Security Bureau, said that some people at Chongqing Morning Post had posted rumors online that impacted the normal social order, and police are continuing their investigation. Deng Song also said that information online had said this person [in question] had been sent to labor re-education, but this is not true, and Chongqing Morning Post would soon issue a statement making this clear.

At around 7:30pm yesterday, the Chongqing Morning Post placed a statement in a prominent position on its website. The statement said: “On June 24, the news that ‘a reporter from Chongqing Morning Post has been sentenced to labor re-education for [sharing] unacceptable information’ traveled through the internet. This newspaper firmly states that: action has been taken by the police against no journalist or other employee of Chongqing Morning Post. In this statement, we clearly deny that any journalist from this newspaper has been punished by the police, but we do not deny that journalists from this newspaper have been investigated by the police.

It is certainly worth noting, as The Beijing News did, that police in Chongqing announced that a statement from the Chongqing Morning Post was forthcoming. That has to raise questions about how active the police have been in managing the fallout from this news.

5 Comments to “Reporter punished for online remarks on Hilton Chongqing raid”

  1. orangeking says:

    Hi David,

    New reports on this incident seems not coming but there has been an interesting diversion: a considerable and increasing number of Chinese media professionals are signing a public declaration to boycott and impose their sanctions on the Chongqing Morning Post, which they deem was intimidating fellow media that tried to safeguard the dignity and freedom of the staff at the Post. This is their joint announcement http://sinaurl.cn/7tmI0 .

    Basically, the idea is that in nowadays China, the violation of citizens’ rights are pervasive and generally speaking the media-and its staff-can hardly escape the unfortunate fate, sometimes they might have to bow to the pressure from above. However, even in these extremely difficult circumstances, there is a bottom line that newsmen shall never cross. What the Economic Observer story did was to make the investigation of three Post staff known to the world and since protect them from further harm, but the Post, which failed to safeguard its staff in the very first place, was not only ungrateful to fellow media’s bravery to break the story, but even intimidated them in the end of its previous statement http://www.cqcb.com/cbnews/gusty/2010-06-24/81632.html . (The words used in that were very similar to Chinese government’s notice or circular repudiate media reports.) So these people vowed they will, individually, NOT 1)subscribe to the Post 2) participate in any meeting or activity organized by the Post 3) allow any form of their works published on the Post 4)cooperate with the Post on any other business operations until the Post publicly explain and apologize for its statement.

    I believe you have a better translation of that joint announcement. And if one tracks Chinese media long enough in recent years and speaks relatively good Mandarin, he/she will have a deeper understanding of the current Chinese media ecology. The conscience, the hope and the struggle for a real Fourth Estate in China are within these people’s unwillingness to be the puppet of the Communist authorities.

    It is not very clear who initiated this campaign but I suspect, based on twitter records and Internet search result, the author may be Sophia Pang, @Pengxiaoyun, a staff editor of the Guangzhou-based liberal-leaning Time Weekly. Many have signed the letter including some known liberal figures in Chinese media.

  2. orangeking says:

    it went further today…
    The Beijing News reported the incident and identified three journalists affected at Chongqing Morning Post.. http://news.163.com/10/0625/07/6A0O4BRS000146BD.html.
    The words were that one journalist was “under investigation” and not in labor camp yet.As to the Chongqing Morning Post statement yesterday, it just denied any of their employees were in labor re-education, but not necessarily exempt from “investigation”, according to the Beijing News.
    You may be aware that labor re-education in China does not fall into the judicial system-the police could arbitrarily send a citizen there without a court “sentence” or even the consent of a prosecutor. Hence judicial procedure(“due process”, if there is any in the People’s Republic) and relief were handicapped compared to a court case.
    Good day.

  3. orangeking says:

    i agree the choice of word is a judgment call…forgive me if I used “mistake” inappropriately, I’m not a native English speaker and i meant to say some points worth consideration

    As a matter of fact I’m in the city of Jinan so it really was a surprise for me to know that Economic Observer would be based here. I believe you are in possession of more resources than I am, but considering the nature and content of the paper’s reporting(and advertising, etc.), I believe it’s fairer to say the main operation is headquartered in Beijing, naturally.

    I’ve no idea what the journalists talked about, but I’m sure it has got your attention that Chongqing Morning Post has promptly issued a statement denying this Economic Observer story and that any of its reporters were in trouble. http://www.cqcb.com/cbnews/gusty/2010-06-24/81632.html
    However, according to @wentommy on twitter,张晓晖, the Economic Observer journalist who wrote that story disputed the statement and alleged that journalists-and their employers-in Chongqing were under high pressure.

    Thanks for careful reply.

  4. admin says:

    orangeking:

    Thank you for the very helpful comments, particularly on QQ, about which I’ve made a correction. Yes, it was quick work, indeed.

    I understand that Economic Observer’s editorial operations are headquartered in Beijing and that it is a nationally circulated newspaper, but GAPP lists both the Jinan and Beijing addresses, and the Jinan address as the primary one. Hence the confusion.

    As for “unacceptable” or “inappropriate” or “improper” or what have you — this is a bit of a judgement call. The content might have been judged indecent, in which case your translation “inappropriate content” would suffice quite well. If, however, this is another propaganda discipline violation then the import is that the content is “unacceptable.” If you have more specific information about what content this was, please do share.

    Best,
    David

  5. orangeking says:

    quick pick-up but several mistakes
    first, it was not “QQ.com” but QQ, an instant messenger programme like Windows Live Messenger(previously known as MSN). Chinese Internet users use that software to conduct peer-to-peer conversations which could also involve groups. The people actually do not talk or post on the website of QQ-qq.com-owned by Tencent in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province.
    second, the Economic Observer is not headquartered in Jinan, Shandong Province. As you can see from its website, http://www.eeo.com.cn/, the paper is based in Beijing. It’s a nationally circulated newspaper-with an office in Jinan.
    third, 不当内容 may be better translated as something like “inappropriate content” as 不当 hardly equals “unacceptable”. Of course in this situation their content has been deemed unacceptable by Chongqing authorities.

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