How To Get Rich As A Reporter In China

China New Youth Magazine Office (Zhejiang Issue Department)


[quick translation]  On May 14, in Lishui City Liandu district, government officials were doing survey measurements on apartment land use by residents of Lihua Village.  During that time, certain villagers who wanted the government to give more land to their residences interfered with the surveying work, and some even employed violence against the militia, causing many injuries.  That evening, the public security bureau arrested three individuals for obstructing public business.

Afterwards, some citizens contacted the editor-in-chief named Wu of the Zhejiang Issue Department of the China New Youth Magazine.  For a 5,000 RMB fee from the villagers to take care of travel and work expenses, Wu arrived in Lishui City with the title of "central government publication reporter" to interview the Liandu District propaganda and public security departments.  Without even finding out about what was going on, Wu said that he was going to print the story about the incident.

The Liandu district party and government officials asked him to respect the facts and give an objective report.

But Wu used the occasion to make four demands:

(1) Wu claimed that he had printed 6,000 copies of the next issue at 15 RMB apiece; if the issue is to be suppressed, the government must pay him 90,000 RMB for this losses;
(2) the local government should pay Wu 10,000 RMB for work and travel expenses;
(3) release the three arrested villagers;
(4) Wu's mother had once been a resident committee cadre in Liandu and he asked the local Civil Affairs Bureau to revisit the issue of financial assistance to his mother.

When the four demands were rejected by the local authorities, Wu published two articles in the Zhejiang Issue of China New Youth magazine titled "The call of the peasants" and "If power replaces law, where is the legal basis?  Use the law to monitor and give me back my human rights."  According to the local officials, Wu's articles seriously affected their normal work and caused undesirable social instability.  During the process of his work, Wu took more money from the petitioning villagers and deliberately spread irresponsible information.  He asked the villagers to pose for photographs of them petitioning and begging on their knees and stirred the villagers to oppose the government.  When his magazine articles came out, some villagers made copies and distributed them around.

Based upon the fact that Wu's activities did not match those of a normal reporter, the Liandu propaganda department made a report to higher authorities.  An investigation showed that there was no operating license for the entity known as the Chinese New Youth magazine.  Furthermore, the publishing license number printed in the magazine belonged to a now defunct Hebei magazine and Wu is not a licensed journalist either.

On August 19, the Liandu district public security bureau set up a special squad and arrested several individuals associated with the 'magazine', including Wu.

The investigation showed that in 2002, another individual created fake journalist ID's and used someone else's publishing license number to start the China New Youth magazine.  Through various activities, the magazine had made 1.7 million RMB after 27 issues.  In July 2004, Liandu resident Wu approached the magazine and obtained an agreement to publish a special Zhejiang edition.  In return, Wu would remit 20,000 RMB in "management fees" for each issue published.  So far, Wu has published three issues.  His principal method of operation was to position himself as a reporter from a national magazine and he used corporate promotion, advertisements, getting "justice" for the masses, helping corporations solve problems by getting government official approval and so on.  At the same time, he blackmailed corporations and governments by threatening to publish negative information.

For example, in July 2004, Wu reached an agreement with 27 Liandu private enterprises to offer assistance to change the status of their factory land.  The enterprises agreed to pay "public relations fees" of 800,000 RMB if successful with an upfront payment of 30,000 RMB for expenses.

In less than one year, Wu collected "promotion" fees of more than 200,000 RMB.  Furthermore, Wu also made fake reporters' identity cards.  He told people that anyone who puts down a 5,000 RMB "deposit" can also become a reporter of the China New Youth magazine.

Why was a criminal organization in which all the journalists were fake so successful in cheating so many people of their money and abusing their trust?

According to the Liandu District public security bureau director, these fake reporters pay close attention to their packaging and exaggerate their positions.  When they create their fake magazines, they put photographs of major national leaders on the cover and then print the words on the front page: "For the reading by senior national leaders, National People's Congress delegates and National Political Consultative Committee delegates."  At the same time, they falsely list certain Party and government leaders and other well-known celebrities as their advisors or editorial committee members.  Furthermore, Wu rented an office from a certain Zhejiang province government department in order to impress people with his 'connections.'

With these 'covers', Wu was successful.  After a while, Wu must have felt that he really was a reporter for a national publication.  When the police arrested him, he was in the process of bullshitting two villagers who came to ask for his "assistance."  He told them that when he published the two articles critical of Lishui City, both the Lishui City Party Secretary and the Liandu District Party Secretary had come to plead with him but he ignored them.  When the police revealed their identities, Wu was embarrassed and finally admitted: "This time, the bullshit went too far!" 

In recent years, there have been many cases of fake reporters working at the grassroots level.  Sometimes, even though the enterprises and governments knew that these were fake reporters, they still let them go.  A grassroots level propaganda director said frankly that fake reporters appear because the bad behavior in the media industry provided fertile ground for them to grow.  To some people, reporters are people with connections -- they can leverage their job positions, they are acquainted with the big shots, they can do "things" that others cannot, and the media can be used to promote or destroy a person's career.  Many media workers do not approach work from the viewpoint of producing the best report possible; instead, they maximize their own interests through their special powers as media.  This tendency became the general belief about how media works.  With this impression, it is easy for the fake reporters to move in and blackmail or deceive people.

The Liandu District party secretary said that in recent years, there have been many people who came with the banners of "opinion monitor" and "propaganda vanguard" to approach local enterprises and government units for favors.  Most of them are fake reporters or just regular employees at newspapers, but some of them are actually real reporters at newspapers.  Some enterprises and government units may have "soft spots" and they had no choice but to accede by paying up.  Sometimes, they know that they are dealing with a fake reporter but they went along anyway because they know the fake reporters are often tied in with the circle of real reporters and may bring those others in.

It is not difficult to arrest a few more fake reporters or close down a few more fake publications.  But that is not addressing the root problem of the fake reporter phenomenon.  The solution requires multiple efforts.  On one hand, the news media must increase its own vigilance with respect to the moral conduct of the real reporters.  On the other hand, the other sectors of society should look at its own problems and mistakes.  If they don't have any problems with what they do, there is nothing that fake reporters can blackmail them about.

(China Youth Daily via  December 30, 2005.

[in translation]

On September 24, this newspaper reported how Zhu Wanxiang and his gang of fake reporters ran around with this brand of "central government publication" and used an expired license number for his publication to cheat people of their money, including blackmailing government departments.  Yesterday, there was a new development when the Zhejiang province Lishui City Liandu district court heard the case yesterday morning.

Last May, there was a dispute about a matter of eviction in Liandu district, Lishui city, Zhejiang province.  Villagers used forced against the militia police, causing multiple injuries to the police.  Afterwards, Wu Zhengyou who claimed to be the editor of the Zhejiang edition of China New Youth magazine went to 'gather news' in Liandu in June.  Without learning about the whole matter, he declared that he would 'expose' this case and demanded 90,000 yuan from the local government to buy out all printed copies of his magazine.

After investigation by the local public security bureau, China New Youth was found to have stolen the license number of the former Rural/Town Enterprise Research magazine and then publishing a magazine illegally.  On August 19, the public security bureau began an investigation of Wu Zhengyou.  Afterwards, Zhu Wanxiang who was the "publisher" of the China Youth Daily magazine in Beijing and six other individuals were arrested by the police.

Upon information, since 2002, Zhu Wwanxiang had been using the name of "central government unit" to illegal publish China New Youth.  In June 2004, Lishui resident Wu Zhengyou got acquainted with Zhu and began the Zhejiang edition of China New Youth.  During this period, Wu collected money through cheating and lying.  Furthermore, Wu and Wang Xianyong made up 200 fake reporters' passes.

At the time, all seven members of the gang are under arrest.  The public security bureau has established that the group has accumulative cheated more than 40 enterprises and units of a total of 2.23 millino yuan.  Furthermore, the gang has extorted money from certain local governments under the name of citizen petitions.


At just after 7am, the spectators filled out the court.  They included the defendants' relatives as well as their victims.  There were also more than 30 reporters from around the country.

At around 8:30am, China New Youth magazine publisher Zhu Wanxiang, China New Youth Zhejiang edition editor Wu Zhengyou and five others were brought into the court.  Facing the many cameras, Zhu Wanxiang said: "Media friends, how are you?"  During the hearing, Zhu Wanxiang suddenly turned around and bowed to the reporters, but he was quickly stopped by the court police.

When the judge asked about his status, Zhu Wanxiang insisted that he was a "reporter" and claimed to have reported on the two national congresses.  When Wu Zhengyou explained his status, he said: "I was a reporter before I was arrested, but I don't know what I am now."

During the hearing, although the prosecutor spoke fast, the eight pages of the charges took half an hour to go through.

According to the charges, Zhu Wanxiang and others were charged with defrauding others through fictional claims or concealing the truth.  In particular, Wu Zhengyou is accused of blackmailing.  The hearing lasted until 10:30pm.


Two journalists in eastern China have been jailed for ten and six years for publishing an unauthorised magazine that exposed local land disputes. Court officials in Zhejiang province said the men were also charged with illegal business operations and fraud. The Beijing Times says the magazine, "New China Youth", was registered in Hong Kong in 2002 but this had no validity on the mainland. Last month, a Xinhua news agency report said the journalists had threatened the local government that they would publish stories if the peasants' demands were not met. 

More details about the penalties are at ZJOL.

Zhu Wanxiang: nine years for illegal business operation plus 200,000 yuan in fines; two years for fraud plus 5,000 yuan in fines.  Net penalty is ten years in jail plus 205,000 yuan in fines.

Wu Zhengyou: four years for illegal business operation plus 100,000 yuan in fines; two years for fraud, plus 5,000 yuan in fines; 1 year for extortion.  Net penalty is six years in jail plus 105,000 yuan in fines.

Pan Chunlei: one year for illegal business operation plus fines of 10,000 yuan.

Four other defendants received no criminal sanctions, but are required to return any illicit gains.  

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