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Detained reporter apologizes for untrue stories

Updated: 2013-10-26 08:20
( Xinhua)

CHANGSHA - A Chinese reporter who is now detained confessed his acts of having released unverified and untrue stories about a company for money and fame and expressed his apology, Xinhua has learned.

Chen Yongzhou, a journalist with the New Express based in the southern city of Guangzhou, said to police that he had continuously released a series of unverified and false reports against the giant engineering company Zoomlion at the request of others.

At the request of others, Chen fabricated facts and wrote more than 10 reports based on supplied materials from Sept 29, 2012 to August 8, 2013 about Zoomlion's "financial problems" without verification, bringing huge losses to the company and its share prices, police said late Friday.

The fabricated problems, including loss of state assets, ugly marketing, sales and financial fraud, were groundless and out of Chen's subjective assumption, according to police. The reports were widely forwarded over the Internet, causing severe social impact.

He would like to apologize to the Zoomlion, the stock investors and his own family members, and warn his peers to "learn a lesson from myself," he was quoted by police as saying.

Chen was caught on Oct 18 in Guangzhou by police from Changsha, capital of central China's Hunan Province where Zoomlion is based, and detained on suspicion of damaging business reputation.

According to the Changsha City Public Security Bureau, they received complaints from Zoomlion about Chen's series of false reports on Sept 9, and after investigation, detained him with the help of police in Guangzhou.

Chen, 27, has served for the New Express as a reporter since graduation in 2009.

Police said the newspaper released a story under Chen's name around mid-May 2003 on Zoomlion's advertising fee, claiming the annual amount reached 513 million yuan ($84.34 million) and irregular mareketing practices were involved. The story, written at the request of a middleman, caused quite a stir.

Zoomlion later issued a clarification statement, citing audit reports to say the mentioned amount also included the company's travel expenses and marketing fee in 2012, while the advertising fee only accounted for 20 percent of the total.

Local police said Chen ignored the audit reports of two accounting firms and published an article on the New Express on May 27, accusing the company's central China sales area of filing false sales and financial statements.

The article resulted in very bad impact on Zoomlion. The Zoomlion share in Shenzhen was forced to be suspended for two days, arousing industry regulators, shareholders, celebrities and investors to query and criticize the company's sectors of finance, management and sales.

Zoomlion had to publish a clarification announcement . According to judicial accounting, the company's market value in Shenzhen and Hong Kong dropped by 1.37 billion yuan on May 29, leading to great losses for the stock investors.

Chen confessed to the police that he was "afraid of getting into trouble" after he saw such severe consequences he had caused.

According to police, Chen received "rewards" provided by other people ranging from thousands of yuan to tens of thousands of yuan during this period.

In June and July 2013, Chen was arranged by other people to visit industry regulators in Beijing and Hong Kong, blowing the whistle on Zoomlion using his real name.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission said in a written reply that after checking and investigation, they found no evidence of Zoomlion's central China sales area having made false sales and financial statements, nor did they find conflicting data.

The middleman, believing negative impact had been made and expectations met, gave hundreds of thousands of yuan and thousands of Hong Kong dollars as "reward" to Chen several times, said the police.

Chen confessed that only "one and a half" of his more than 10 reports about Zoomlion were done after gathering information himself, while the rest were made based on provided articles. He even published some of the supplied articles on the New Express without reading them first.

"I did not check the content of these articles and only made minor changes. I used some vague words so that I and the New Express would not be targeted," Chen said to the local police.

Chen said that he knew these reports would damage the reputation of Zoomlion, but did not expect the impact would be that big.

"If I were given a chance to be a reporter again, I would follow the professional ethics to write impartial, true, objective and balanced reports. I would not be lured by benefits," Chen said to the police.

The case is under further investigation.

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