Chen Yongzhou (陈永洲), an investigative reporter with the New Express newspaper (Xinkuaibao in Chinese), has been held by Changsha police since Oct. 19 for writing stories about Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science & Technology Development Co. Ltd, China's second-largest construction equipment maker.
Chen was born in August 1986 in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. He has served as the Guangzhou-based New Express reporter since his graduation from college in 2009.
On Oct. 19, 2013, Chen was held in Guangzhou by Hunan police on suspicion of "damaging business reputations" after he reported "financial problems" at Zoomlion, which is based in Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province.
On Oct. 23, 2013, New Express carried a full-page editorial under the headline "Please release (him)," and published another plea on Oct. 24, "Once again please release (him)."
On Oct. 23, 2013, Zoomlion announced that the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee had both stepped in to further investigate the case.
Also on Oct. 23, 2013, Changsha police revealed that Chen fabricated information and wrote more than 10 reports without verification from Sept. 29 2012 to Aug. 8 2013, based on materials supplied to him about Zoomlion's "financial problems", causing great losses to the company and its share prices. After the reports, the company's share price dropped and there were public accusations against its management.
On Oct. 26 2013, in video footage aired by China Central Television (CCTV), Chen said to police that he had released a series of unverified and false reports against Zoomlion. However, CCTV did not clarify from whom Chen received the money or at whose request he wrote the stories, and police didn't respond either.
Also on Oct. 26 2013, the All-China Journalists Association (ACJA) condemned Chen for releasing unverified and untrue stories about Zoomlion in a statement, saying Chen's behavior had seriously violated professional journalistic ethics and harmed the media's credibility. ACJA added that the New Express should also be held responsible for dereliction of duty over the past year.
On Oct. 27, the New Express issued a statement on its front page to apologize for Chen's false stories, saying "a preliminary police investigation showed that our reporter Chen Yongzhou had been incited by others to write numerous inaccurate stories in exchange for money, seriously violating the China News Workers' Code of Professional Ethics and the principle of news authenticity. At the same time, the newspaper failed to review the reports carefully. After the incident, our newspaper took improper actions, seriously damaging the credibility of the media, which is an important lesson for us. The newspaper will strengthen supervision over news workers and the publication procedure, and target any existing problems."
Chen's case has drawn nationwide attention and triggered heated debate on the professional ethics of reporters and moral integrity on the Internet. The case is currently under further investigation, according to the police.
On Oct. 30, 2013, Chen Yongzhou was officially arrested for alleged damage to commercial reputation, days after he confessed to fabricating a series of reports targeting Zoomlion.