(v3.0)

Section 1 of 3:  Recommended Photos/Videos/Reading

Global (in English) Greater China (in English) Greater China (in Chinese)
Defending the Arts Amid a Culture of Fear  Dan Aubrey, US1
The ipod of prison  Joshua Hunt, The New Yorker
Kellers’ cancer writing shows how broken journalism has become  Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon.com
Hazards of Revolution  Patrick Cockburn, LRB
Blackadder – your country needs you  Stuart Jeffries, The  Guardian
The Daggers of Jorge Luis Borges Michael Greenberg, NYROB
Retracing Mao Zedong’s Long March by Motorcycle  Adam Century, The Atlantic
Why China can’t take over the world  Noah Smith, Quartz
Yasukuni Blues: Understanding Shinzo Abe’s Historical Revisionism  China Matters
2013 In Review  That's Online
Two Schools of Thought on China – Both Wrong  Eric Li, YaleGlobal
我的翻译与博客生涯  南方都市报
宋以朗的异乡记  南方都市报
张爱玲的出版史·大陆篇  南方都市报
《同学少年都不贱》解密  南方都市报
张爱玲的出版史·港台篇  南方都市报
张爱玲的出版史·上海篇  南方都市报
:张爱玲没有写的文章   南方都市报
《上海懒汉》是《浮花浪蕊》初稿?  南方都市报
《色,戒》之外的故事  南方都市报
张爱玲晚景并不凄凉  南方都市报
张爱玲的遗嘱与去世时细节  南方都市报
张爱玲写《红楼梦》没收到剧本费  南方都市报
张爱玲想以英文写作获得成功  南方都市报
张爱玲是否“平生足迹未履农村”  南方都市报
一个“一点都不美丽的错误”  南方都市报
结识张爱玲:从上海到香港  南方都市报
诗人情谊与“林以亮”的由来  南方都市报
永远的守护者  南方都市报
乱世中的两个文艺青年  南方都市报
吴兴华是另一个钱钟书  南方都市报
傅雷的红颜知己  南方都市报
傅雷评张爱玲小说前后  南方都市报
傅雷与宋家家事  南方都市报
傅雷与宋氏兄弟的通信  南方都市报
在上海:不只是房东与房客,更是挚友  南方都市报
钱钟书夫妇看不起张爱玲?()  南方都市报:
钱钟书夫妇看不起张爱玲?(一)  南方都市报
关于苏珊·桑塔格的通信  南方都市报
阔别三十年后的通信
  南方都市报
结交:与钱钟书相识于上海  南方都市报
香港中文大学经历与退休生活  南方都市报
宋淇的编剧与翻译  南方都市报
宋淇的病及退出电影圈  南方都市报
离开电懋与加入邵氏  南方都市报
进入影业:受陆运涛之邀加入电懋  南方都市报
邝文美:洋进士的女儿  南方都市报
在上海:热衷话剧、创办杂志  南方都市报
童年生活与燕京大学  南方都市报
宋春舫:中国现代戏剧的先行者  南方都市报
宋春舫与褐木庐藏书  南方都市报

Section 2 of 3:  Brief comments

October 23, 2013  Bloomberg News

Chinese police detained a reporter who wrote stories questioning the finances of Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science and Technology Co.  Police in the southern city of Changsha, where Zoomlion is based, said on the department’s microblog that a Xinkuaibao reporter surnamed Chen was detained after accusations he damaged the commercial reputation of a company that wasn’t identified. One of the 15 stories Chen wrote about Zoomlion, published on May 27, accused the company of improperly accounting for sales, forcing Zoomlion to halt trading of its shares in Hong Kong and Shenzhen. The company has denied it falsified sales. Zoomlion had filed a complaint against Chen with local police last week, said a media official for the construction-equipment maker who asked not to be identified because of the company’s rules. The company’s stock closed at HK$6.82 in Hong Kong. The Shenzhen-traded shares fell 2.9 percent to 5.61 yuan. Zoomlion was also forced to halt its shares in January after Ming Pao Daily published a story questioning its sales. The Hong Kong-based newspaper said it received an unsigned letter with the accusations, which Zoomlion denied and called “false, groundless and misleading.” Zoomlion posted a 48 percent drop in profit to 2.92 billion yuan ($480 million) in the six months ended June as China’s slowing economic growth damped demand at the nation’s second-largest construction equipment maker.

October 22, 2013  New York Times Sinosphere blog

Mr. Chen was formally detained on Saturday under “suspicion of damaging commercial reputation,” said the police in Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province and home to Zoomlion’s headquarters. The New Express, a scrappy tabloid, had run a series of articles questioning Zoomlion’s revenue and profit figures.

Zoomlion, which is partly owned by the Hunan government, has denied allegations that it faked its results. Trading of the company’s shares in Shenzhen and Hong Kong was temporarily suspended in May after The New Express accused Zoomlion of doctoring sales numbers.

The Changsha police say Mr. Chen fabricated allegations that the company improperly privatized state assets; spent 513 million renminbi, or $84.3 million, on “abnormal marketing”; and falsified sales and financial information, according to a report by Xinhua, the state-run news service.

The New Express said on Wednesday that it had reviewed 15 articles Mr. Chen had written about the company and found only one small error. “We always thought you only need to report responsibly and you won’t have any problems,” the newspaper said. “The facts confirm that we were too naïve.” The newspaper said Mr. Chen was summoned to a Guangzhou police station and was taken into custody by police officers visiting from Changsha, 700 kilometers (437 miles) to the north. Mr. Chen was put in a Mercedes-Benz and driven away, The New Express reported, quoting his wife.

Li Chengpeng, a popular blogger, wrote that the authorities never arrested people when official media like China Central Television, the national broadcaster, made mistakes. “Now one newspaper wants to speak some truth, but any mistake leads to an arrest,” he wrote on his Sina Weibo microblog. “The bottom line is you create a world of one voice, one right answer and one press release. Why don’t you just have one single paper with a readership of two people then?”

Pan Shiyi, a real estate tycoon, wrote on Sina Weibo, where he has more than 16 million followers: “For many years now, when some Chinese business reporters write stories about us, they don’t read our financial reports or statements but make up their own stories. Still, reporters shouldn’t be detained willy-nilly. Has any good company ever been brought down by a news story?”

Some commentators questioned whether the Changsha authorities were acting at the behest of a powerful firm connected to the local government. “The police are there to uphold the law, not to protect the backyard of a few special companies and people,” Yu Jianrong, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, wrote on his Sina Weibo account.

Even Hu Xijin, the editor of the Communist Party-run Global Times, who has clashed with more liberal elements in the Chinese media before, recommended that the national journalists association get involved to protect the rights of the reporter.

Maya Wang, a Hong Kong-based researcher for Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group, said she could not recall any other time a Chinese newspaper came out so forthrightly to demand the release of one of its reporters. “The fact that they published it is quite astonishing,” she said. “There have been other newspapers that have spoken out on behalf of their journalists, but I’ve never seen a front page like that,” she said. “I imagine that the propaganda department will be calling them and admonishing them for doing so.” A New Express employee reached by telephone late Wednesday night declined to comment on any government response.

October 23, 2013  China Media Project

In a rare case of open resistance by Chinese media against intimidation by the authorities, Guangzhou’s New Express newspaper today published an editorial on its front page appealing directly to its readers following the cross-regional detention of one of its reporters by police from Changsha, the capital of neighboring Hunan province.

Under the bold headline, “Release Him,” the editorial occupies the full front page of today’s New Express. The finer bolded text directly above the headline reads: “Dear Readers, our reporter Chen Yongzhou (陈永洲) reported on financial problems at Zoomlion and was taken into custody by the Changsha police outside their jurisdiction, accused of damaging business prestige. Over this matter, we must speak out.”

Chen was reportedly taken into custody in Guangzhou more than a week ago by four policeman from Changsha — clearly operating far beyond their jurisdiction — who charged that Chen had “damaged the business reputation” of Zoomlion with his reports. The New Express initially kept quiet about the detention, hoping the matter could be resolved reasonably behind closed doors. Today’s front page editorial, with its acerbic and mocking tone, was apparently a measure taken by the newspaper as a last resort.

October 24, 2013   China Media Project

Guangzhou’s New Express, which made international headlines yesterday with a brassy front-page editorial calling for the release of one of its reporters from Changsha police custody, has repeated the call on its front page today.

In a bold headline in blue brackets toward the bottom of today’s front page, the New Express says of reporter Chen Yongzhou: AGAIN WE ASK FOR HIS RELEASE. A smaller headline reads: “Everything must be resolved within the framework of the law. You cannot detain first and [rationalize] charges later.”

October 25, 2013  The Standard

The central publishing regulator, in a rare acknowledgement of the rights of journalists, expressed concern yesterday about a detained reporter, a case that has stirred outrage after a newspaper pleaded with police on its front page to let him go.

Chen Yongzhou of New Express was detained after writing stories criticizing the finances of state-owned construction gear maker Zoomlion Heavy Industry, a move that coincides with new curbs on journalists.

"The General Association of Press and Publishing resolutely supports the news media conducting normal interviewing and reporting activities and resolutely protects journalists' normal and legal rights to interview," the China Press and Publishing Journal, which is overseen by the association itself, said, citing an association official.

October 25, 2013  South China Morning Post

Two days ago, the front-page of the New Express, the newspaper Chen writes for, carried the first of two editorials questioning a police decision in Hunan province to pursue criminal charges against him for his reports on Zoomlion. The company is a major manufacturer in the provincial capital Changsha.

Zoomlion, which is listed in both Shenzhen and Hong Kong, saw its stock price tumble as other newspapers joined the New Express in a campaign for Chen’s release.

In Hong Kong, the company’s share price tumbled more than 9 per cent in two days, losing about HK$930 million in market capitalisation. In Shenzhen, the loss amounted to around HK$2.5 billion. The company lost HK$3.46 billion, including unlisted shares, in market capitalisation over the two days, until the campaign was halted by order of the Propaganda Department.

Chen has written a series of articles on Zoomlion over the last 18 months. One, which he wrote in May, suggested the company falsified sales figures. It led to a drop of 5.4 per cent in the share price – pulling it to its lowest level in two years.

Yet, on average, his reports failed to harm the company’s reputation among investors. Zoomlion’s share price actually rose nine times out of twelve on the Hong Kong exchange on days he published an article about the company.

On Thursday evening, the publishers of the New Express issued a statement calling for Chen’s release.

Police have said they are detaining Chen following a complaint by Zoomlion and have started a formal investigation.

Colleagues said Chen’s lawyer was allowed to meet him on Friday.

For Bob Dietz, Asia programme co-ordinator with the Committee to Protect Journalists, the New Express campaign actually served the interests of the press, if anyone.

“This appeal shows the strength of the more mainstream Chinese media, which is often overlooked in the crackdown on digital platforms like blog sites and social media,” he said. “Newspapers in particular have strong social support – reports on corruption make for compelling reading.”

“The paper [was] wise to go broadly public like this,” he commented. “Chen’s arrest has become more than just one more story of a Chinese journalist in detention.”

October 26, 2013  South China Morning Post

What happened to Chen Yongzhou is disturbing. The New Express reporter wrote a 15-part investigative series that detailed alleged fraud committed by construction equipment giant Zoomlion. The allegations were rejected by the company. Chen was later detained by Changsha police and accused of fabricating facts and damaging the company's commercial reputation. Pressure intensified after the tabloid ran a front-page appeal twice urging Chen's release. The call was backed by several mainland newspapers.

The detention comes at a time when the state is seen to be taking a hard-line approach to online dissent. Concerns have been raised whether the municipal authorities are riding on the campaign to impose an even tighter grip on the media. Chen was just doing legitimate news reporting. If the articles are found to be inaccurate, the company can seek redress in other ways and, if necessary, sue the newspaper through a civil proceeding. Detaining a journalist seeking to expose the truth has sent the wrong message about Beijing's anti-graft commitment and respect for the rule of law.

October 26, 2013  CNTV

A Chinese reporter who’s been held by police for the last week has confessed to writing "unverified and untrue stories" about a company, in order to gain money and fame. Chen Yongzhou has now apologized for his actions and warned his peers to "learn a lesson" from himself.

Chen Yongzhou, a journalist with the New Express in Guangzhou, confessed that he’d continuously released a series of unverified and false reports against engineering company Zoomlion, at the request of others. Chen said that only "one and a half" of his more than 10 reports were done after gathering information himself, while the rest were made based on provided articles. "I did not check the content of these articles and only made minor changes. The original drafts were provided by other people." Chen Yongzhou said. The fabrications, including loss of state assets, ugly marketing, sales and financial fraud, were widely forwarded over the Internet, causing severe social impact.

One of the articles under Chen’s name around mid-May 2003 on Zoomlion’s advertising fee, claimed the annual amount reached 513 million yuan and involved irregular marketing practices. Zoomlion later issued a clarification statement, citing audit reports to say the highlighted 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. But the report led to trading in Zoomlion shares in Shenzhen to be suspended for two days.

"I knew they made a deliberate misinterpretation out of context after I saw the topic. But I didn’t expect such severe consequences. Then I became afraid of getting into trouble." Chen Yongzhou said. Chen also said what he had done met the middleman’s expectation and he received "rewards" ranging from thousands of yuan to tens of thousands of yuan from September 29th, 2012 to August 8th, 2013. "I’m willing to confess. I would like to apologize to the Zoomlion, the company’s stock investors and my own family members. I also struggled. On the one hand is the professional ethics, on the other hand is benifits. It’s very hard to get both of them, and I’m very regretable." Chen Yongzhou said.

Chen was detained on October 18th, under suspicion of damaging business reputation. His detention, and his newspaper’s campaign for his release, has made international news.

October 27, 2013  New Express

(translation) 

According to the preliminary investigation by the police, our reporter Chen Yongzhou was directed by others to make numerous false reports in return for monetary payoffs.  As such, this is seriously in violation of the <Chinese Journalists' professional ethical standards> and the requirement for accuracy in journalism. After the the case broke open, our newspaper acted inappropriately and thus seriously damaged public trust in the media.  This has been a profound less for us, and we will be seriously examining our existing problems and improving our supervision over our editors and reporters and the publication process. We will rigorously demand that our editors and reporters respect the facts, obey the laws and adhere to the professional ethics and activity requirements of journalists.

We offer our profound apologies to the various sectors of our society.

New Express

October 27, 2013  BBC

A Chinese newspaper, which made front-page appeals for the release of one its journalists, has issued an apology. The Guangdong-based New Express said a preliminary police investigation found that Chen Yongzhou had accepted money to publish numerous false reports. He was arrested over claims he defamed a partly state-owned firm in articles exposing alleged corruption. The paper's front-page apology came after the journalist confessed to wrongdoing on state TV. "I'm willing to admit my guilt and to show repentance," Mr Chen said in a statement broadcast on Saturday.

The New Express had previously backed him with unusually bold front-page appeals for his release. But in a statement on Sunday's front page, it said it had failed to properly check his reports. "This newspaper was not strict enough about thoroughly fact-checking the draft of the report," it said. "After the incident occurred the newspaper took inappropriate measures, seriously harming the public trust of the media." It promised to better ensure that its reporters and editors "comply with professional journalistic ethics and regulations".

Experts say confessions are still routinely coerced, despite a change in the law earlier this year banning the authorities from forcing anyone to incriminate themselves.

Mr Chen wrote several articles for the New Express alleging financial irregularities at a construction-equipment company called Zoomlion. The company denies the allegations. "In this case I've caused damages to Zoomlion and also the whole news media industry and its ability to earn the public's trust," he told state broadcaster CCTV. "I did this mainly because I hankered after money and fame. I've been used. I've realised my wrongdoing."

October 27, 2013  m4

After the Changsha police announced on October 22 that they have arrested reporter Chen Yongzhou on October 19 on suspicion of damaging commercial reputation, the New Express responded strongly.  On October 23 and 24, the newspaper used the front page to ask the Changsha police to release Chen.  Just when everybody is arguing, the CCTV morning news program showed Chen Yongzhou facing the camera and admitting to having committed crimes.  He said that in order to display his prowess in order to gain fame and fortune, he accepted the directions of other persons and published numerous negative reports on the Zoomlion company.  The reports were not verified by Chen; in fact, he had not even read some of them.  Nevertheless the reports went out under his byline.  As a result, the Zoomlion reputation suffered and many investors lost money on the stock market.  Chen expressed his regrets and apologized to Zoomlion, investors and his own family.  He asked his peers to use his case as a cautionary tale.

During the escalation of the public debate, the various southern media led by New Express joined forces with the public intellectuals and celebrity microbloggers to manipulate public opinion and apply pressure on the Changsha police without regard for the rule of law.  As a traditional newspaper which ought to be rigorous, fact-biding and authoritative, New Express used two front pages to inflame passions.  Under the claim of freedom of press, they demanded the unconditional release of Chen Yongzhou at a time when the Changsha police was in the middle of obtaining evidence after a legally valid detention.  The public intellectuals asked people to unload Zoomlion shares and hold the police responsible.  Numerous false rumors was spread, including "the vehicles used by the Changsha police to make the arrest in Guangzhou were provided by Zoomlion" etc.

Zoomlion kept a relatively low profile, but it sustained damage in the public debate.  During the two days (October 23 an 24), the stock price of Zoomlion fell 6.75% which amounted to more than 3 billion in market capitalization.  When New Express published the dozen or so inaccurate negative reports on Zoomlion between September last year to May this year, the Zoomlion A shares had to be suspended from trading for two days.  They came under suspicion and condemnation by the regulatory authority, shareholders and investors.  According to Zoomlion, the company's A and H shares lost a total of 1.369 RMB in market capitalization.  Zoomlion shareholders bore the brunt of the losses.  Incredibly, Chen Yongzhou only gathered information on one and a half of the negative reports, and he didn't even read some of the others himself.  Chen Yongzhou now said that he earned 500,000 RMB for his efforts.

Zoomlion is a Human-based company with a certain military-industrial background.  It is a state company with the rare innovative capabilities in mechanical engineering.  It has managed to develop many technological breakthroughs that broke international monopolies.  It is highly competitive across the world in construction.  According to the microblogger Ranxiang, a number of American hedge funds began selling Zoomlion shares short during the first half year of this year.  When New Experss issued those negative reporters on Zoomlion, they appear to support the short sales.  This writer does not know the true motives of New Express nor any connection with overseas hedge funds.  But on the CCTV morning news program, the screen capture showed that the names of New Experss editor-in-chief Wang Zhong and <21st Century Business Herald> reporter Zhu Zongwhen were listed in the case file.  Chen Yongzhou had also confessed that he acted on behest of other persons who were responsible for writing the actual reports.  When a newspaper permits a reporter to write a dozen or so negative reports within the last year, and then used its front page to issue a "big-character wallposter" to demand the release of a reporter under investigation, and when that newspaper used as its leverage the destruction a state company and the economic interests of the shareholders, then what is the responsibility of the New Express group and its leaders?  Shouldn't New Express make an account of itself to the relevant supervisory organ?

At this time, the public intellectuals and celebrity microbloggers have withdrawn from the battle lines.  We should begin to think about the performance of the media.  Through their vast resources, the media inflamed passions and caused huge economic losses for the relevant companies and their shareholders.  These losses are inestimable.  Worse yet, if the media began tools for certain forces and then the public intellectuals and celebrity microbloggers join in to pour oil on flames, it is the overall economy and society of China that will be damaged.

It is time for the government to exert control.  When the media go out of control in China, the damage will be on Chinese companies, economy and society as well as public trust in the media.  Only the foreign capital will win.  There will be no winners among us!

October 27, 2013  Wu Fatian's blog

On the morning of October 27, we finally saw the apology from New Express.  This newspaper gave less than 10% of its page to the apology, right in the far corner of a large photograph of the soccer game between Hengda and Seoul.  So they devoted almost one page to demand: "Please release him" but now they issued a paltry apology right behind the backside of a soccer player.  No wonder one netizen commented that the apology was more like a fart.

... Certain public intellectuals and celebrity microbloggers were standing up for New Express.  Their position demand that they persist.  They said: Tonight we are all Chen Yongzhou and we are fighting for ourselves when we plead his case ... But once the lie about Chen's innocence was exposed, they will naturally proceed to argue for procedural justice.  A certain public intellectual promptly posted a screen capture of the CCTV interview with Chen Yongzhou in which his neck showed a red, swollen band.  Suddenly everybody was crying "Torture!"  But when someone else went back to the video and examined it carefully, there was no such sign to be found!  So some public intellectual or the other had added the redness, which was enough to cause microblogging lawyer Yuan to gleefully forward the photograph.  But when the artificial addition was exposed, lawyer Yuan quickly deleted his post and said nothing more ...

... Some people suggest that the CCTV news report of Chen's confession violated the presumption of innocence before trial.  This is a total misunderstanding.  Chen was referred to as a suspect.  The broadcast of his confession does not mean that he has been found guilty.  Until the court renders a verdict, the person is still merely a suspect and a defendant.  CCTV's broadcast merely provided evidence for public debate.  The microblogosphere contains many voices, such that no media outlet can dominate.  Before the CCTV broadcast was aired, the public intellectuals demanded the evidence of wrongdoing to be produced.  Therefore, Chen's confession satisfied the public's right to know.  After all, we want to see justice rendered in a way that people can see and hear.  The revelation of the evidence is more open and transparent than having the investigation being sealed for the sake of confidentiality.

... Some people questioned whether the Changsha police was acted as the personal vassal of a certain company when they made the arrest in Guangzhou.  So let me examine the case objectively.  First of all, the case should be handled by the public security authorities at the place in which the crime was made, and that covers the place in which the crime was committed, the place in which the crime had its consequences as well as the place in which the payoffs was made.  In this case, the crime was committed by the suspect in Guangzhou and the damage was caused for a company based in Changsha.  Therefore both the Guangzhou and Changsha police have jurisdiction rights.  In this case, the victim filed a complaint to the Changsha police, which is acted lawfully to set up the case.

Secondly, there is the matter of the Changsha police crossing provincial borders to make an arrest in Guangzhou.  There is no ban against the police making arrests across borders.  If someone commits a crime in Tianjin and flees to Langfang, can he be arrested?  Of course, he can be.  The law states that when the police makes an arrest outside of its jurisdiction, the local police should cooperate.  The Changsha police arrested Chen Yongzhou with the assistance of the Guangzhou police ...

Thirdly, the matter of the Changsha police serving as the personal vassals of Zoomlion is a completely subjective judgment.  When any company files a complaint that involves criminal activities, the police must set up a case to investigate.  If New Express were to file a libel case against a Zoomlion executive and the Guangzhou police sets up a case, then would you say that the Guangzhou police are serving as the personal vassals of New Express?  Of course not.

Fourthly, it is asserted that the entire case rests upon a confession which is insufficient proof in court.  But given the way that the defendant described his crimes so fluently on camera, it is certain that there must be sufficient documentary and material evidence that made him spill everything.  So be patient and you will see the evidence when the court trial takes place.

On October 23, New Express said: "If the police uncle found evidence that we have not been able to uncover so far, please let us know and we will take off our hats to salute."  The apology on October 27 was directed towards the readers, but not he police.  They did not say that they were taking their hats off to salute the police.  In English, there are three terms (in increasing degree): "apology", "sorry" and "regret."  The New Express statement merely reflects a certain regret. 

When New Express said that "they were sloppy in checking the reports," they mean to say that they are abandoning Chen Yongzhou.  This 27-year-old reporter used to be their pawn, but now he has been sacrificed.  If New Express had used the following front page, I would have been impressed by their courage.


(translation)  I was fucking stupid!  I never imagined that I would lose my virtues!

October 28, 2013  Sydney Morning Herald

CCTV's broadcast of Mr Chen's alleged confession and the newspaper's apology "makes a complete mockery of this 'China is a country under rule of law' nonsense that we get fed," said Jeremy Goldkorn, 42, founding director of Danwei.com, a Beijing- based firm that researches China's media and Internet. "I don't know the specifics of this case, but you don't get a confession on CCTV unless there is some political element to it."

The newspaper may have been pressured to apologise, Mr Goldkorn said. "If you look at the front page, it's in a tiny corner, it doesn't look like a very sincere apology."

In its statement, Xinkuaibao said the police's initial investigation showed Mr Chen published "a lot of incorrect reports and took money." The newspaper failed to carefully review his articles before publishing them, it said.

It sent a "deep apology to all in society," and pledged to "earnestly correct the existing problem" and "demand our editorial staff respect facts and abide by the law and professional ethics."

Xinkuaibao, translated as New Express, is part of the Guangzhou-based Yangcheng Evening News Group, according to the websites of both publications.

October 28, 2013  South China Morning Post

A journalist with New Express said on condition of anonymity that the paper was forced to print the apology. "It was an order from above. It's a day of disgrace for New Express." Last week the paper ran two front-page appeals calling for Chen's release.

Another reporter said: "The paper had good and pure intentions to start with, which was to project its own reporters and their journalistic rights. But regrettably, we can't possibly beat more potent government power. Chen was just cannon fodder."

Chen wrote 15 articles accusing engineering giant Zoomlion of "financial problems", including inflating its profits. Zoomlion is about 20 per cent state-owned and is listed on the Hong Kong and Shenzhen stock exchanges.

Its shares fell in Hong Kong trading last week. The stock rebounded 1.8 per cent on October 25 after plunging more than 9 per cent over the previous two days.

October 28, 2013  FT blog: The World with Gideon Rachman

The apologya (made by New Express) could undermine public faith in a more investigative crop of newspapers, many of them, like New Express, located in the relatively more liberal province of Guangdong. It will also focus attention on a grubby fact of Chinese journalism – that bribes are regularly paid to suppress stories or to encourage critical coverage of personal or commercial rivals. Authorities may also use the incident to pour scorn on foreign journalists who, they will say, are too eager to believe muckraking stories, and too quick to assume that all arrests are politically motivated.

Yet the real lesson of Mr Chen’s case is not that newspapers sometimes get stories wrong – if that indeed turns out to be the case – nor even that they are sometimes as corrupt as the targets of their investigations. In aggregate, the new breed of Chinese media has done the public a service in shining a light into the darker crevices of society.

Above all, the incident highlights the weakness of China’s institutions. Parading someone on TV is no substitute for due legal process. Nor is the fact that the Changsha police appear to have overstepped their authority in dashing to Guangdong to arrest Mr Chen, making a criminal case out of what many lawyers consider a civil matter. Zoomlion, the company Mr Chen had accused of inflating its profits, is based in Changsha, where it is partly owned by the Hunan provincial government. That begs the question of precisely who the police thought they were protecting and on whose authority they were acting.

The most likely conclusion the Chinese public will draw is that nothing can be believed and no one can be trusted. A plague on all their houses! That is hardly unique to China. Even more open and democratic societies are facing a crisis of public faith in institutions. But in China, that lack of trust – whether in the media or in the results of listed companies, whether in the courts or in the safety of food – has reached epidemic proportions.

On September 12, a Chinese microblogger wrote that among his university fellow students, there were 8 cancer patients among the more than 30 who remained in Beijing after graduation whereas none of the more than 20 who went to work overseas suffered from cancer. This microblog post drew plenty of comments.
 
Some people think that cancer rates must be higher in China than elsewhere in developed countries, due to reasons such as human genetics, socio-cultural factors, eating habits, genetically modified food, food additives, lax supervision of food safety, industrialization, environmental pollution, etc. Therefore this anecdotal observation fitted their predilections.
 
However, the uncorroborated numbers from one Chinese microblogger is not a scientific study.  You cannot generalize this one case to the general situation in China. Besides there may be other explanations for what happened here.
 
[Side note: In the 1970's, I attended the State University of New York at Stony Brook and I lived a number of years in two G Quad residence halls (Irving/O'Neill). In the 1980's, a former student contacted the university and gave information about several students who had developed or died of cancer. These students were all in their 20's and it seemed abnormal for them to develop the same type of rare cancer at that age. young. All these students lived in the two residence halls between 1981 and 1988. The university conducted an exhaustive review. First they compared the 13,114 students who had lived there since 1981 to the New York State Cancer registry and found 43 cancer cases, which was not considered to be abnormal. The university also evaluated the air, water, heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, radiation and other systems. They did not find any potentially hazardous material exceeding safety limits set forth in local, state and federal guidelines or requirements. So the case was closed. (see
Report Finds No Cancer Link to G Quad Building)]
 
A more authoritative source on China might be the World Cancer Research Fund. Among the countries with the 50 highest rates (per 100,000) for all cancers, we see:

#1. Denmark 326.1
#2. Ireland 317.0
#3. Australia 314.1
#4. New Zealand 309.2
#5. Belgium 306.8
#6. France (urban) 300.4
#7. United States of America 300.2
#8. Norway 299.1
#9. Canada 296.6
#10. Czech Republic 295.0
...
#29. Chinese Taipei 244.1
...
#50. South Africa 202.0
 
China is not even in the top 50.  According to http://globocan.iarc.fr, China's rate is 181.0 per 100,000. So what about all those scare stories about unsafe food in China? the PM 2.5 data collected by the American embassy? Are they just hyperbole?
 
The problem is that there are other factors that could distort direct comparisons.
 
First of all, the World Cancer Research Fund states that the cancer rates are different for "more developed" versus "less developed" countries. If the overall cancer rate is 181.6 for the world, then the rate for more developed countries is 255.8 and that for less developed countries is only 147.8. At this stage of development, China still cannot be characterized as "more developed."
 
Secondly, a major difference between "more developed" and "less developed" countries is life expectancy. People live longer in "more developed" countries. According to Cancer Research UK, the worldwide life expectancy is 68 years, but 77 in "more developed" countries versus 66 in "less developed". And cancer incidence is vastly higher among old people than in young people.  Simply put, the more elderly people there are in the population, the higher the cancer rate, and vice versa.
 
These same points were made by the Peking University Business Commentary chief editor Bao Dike. These drew comments such as:
- Lifestyle and environment accounts of only 50% of the variation. As age goes up, the cancer rate rises quickly. Another reason is that new and improved medical practices allow more cancers to be detected earlier, which seemingly result in higher cancer rates.
- Western lifestyle is more conducive to cancer growth.
- Old age is only one factor. Other factors such as excessive smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol, western diets (with low intakes of fruits and vegetables), exposure to sun, obesity and environment are also important.
- Although cancer rates are not yet high in China, we should be wary that the environmental problems will show up eventually.
- These statistics are unscientific because how can China not be up there? In China, the air is polluted, the water is contaminated, they serve gutter oil, they eat genetically modified food, they eat high-sodium high-sugar food, they use food additives, etc. China should be among the top ten! Yes, didn't an expert in Beijing said several days ago that eight of his fellow students who stayed in China developed cancer at a 25% rate, whereas none of those who went overseas did?
- Is this related to genetically modified food? With the constitutional monarchy? With the legal system? Or with PM 2.5?
 
Bao Dike also made some explanations to question:
- You said that the statistics for the west are more accurate because poor people in China cannot afford to see the doctor. In China, some people cannot afford medical treatment (such as surgery or chemotherapy) but very few people are so poor as not able to visit doctors when ill. That is to say, the cause of death is known most of the time.
- The cancer rate for China is about 250 per 100,000 overall, and about 270 per 100,000 for the urban areas only. This is about #15 in the world. The cancer rate for the rural areas is about 240 per 100,000.
- There is nothing wrong with the statistics. More developed countries have higher life expectancies and therefore higher cancer rates. In China, the more developed regions have higher cancer rates. Thus, Shanghai has the highest life expectancy and also the highest cancer rate.

This drew two types of comments.

On one hand:
- How come they were dressing more and more simple and unadorned over time?
-(Ren Zhiqiang) Poorer and poorer?
-CEO Ren, you have revealed the secret.
-After a bunch of country bumpkins took over in the 1950's, the already small enough happiness became a dream. But the Deng Xiaoping era brought back the wine and women.
- Yes, don't forget to forward this post. Only chickens read but don't forward.

On the other hand:
- Fuck, in the Manchurian dynasty, only the Empress Dowager and the princes can have photos taken. Common folks have no money! These fools are intentionally misleading people.
- Before 1949, only rich people can afford to have photos taken. Ordinary citizens cannot hope to do so. Ren Zhiqiang is blind.
- This series showed how wedding photos have moved from the nobility and wealthy classes to the families of workers, peasants and soldiers.
- According to information, it cost one hundred dan (one dan equals 50 kilograms) to have a photo taken in 1900. This goes to show why type of person can afford it. Nowadays, some newlyweds take nude wedding photos. But what does that say then? Are we even poorer now than 1970?

(China Daily)  Rumor-mongering website closed in Wuhan.  August 30, 2013.

Police in Wuhan, Hubei province, have seized a website spreading rumors online and deleted negatives news, the Wuhan Evening News reported on Aug 30. Police have arrested 27 people from the website company, including the boss, a man named Tang. The company, set up three years ago, has hired 600 post writers in 28 provinces and cities, and has 312 VIP accounts and 220 million fans nationwide.

In May this year, a whistle-blower told police that the website benefited from illegal business.

For example, an investigation showed the website falsely claimed in September that a famous liquor brand had quality problems after mixing alcohol with industrial flavoring after receiving money from a client. The company also deleted negative news online when clients paid for the service, police said.

The Chinese-language reporting had more details ...

(Xinhua)  Rumor-mongering earns a million yuan a year; profit chain of Wuman rumor-mongering company revealed.  August 31, 2013.

[in translation]

On August 29, the Wuhan police announced that the so-called "largest Internet promotion company in China" has been busted.  More than 300 microblog accounts which have "V" celebrity designations with more than 220 million followers were involved. The profit chain behind this company is unveiled ...

The Kongxin Building is a commercial building on 38th Street, Qingshan district, Wuhan city. There are no signs outside rooms 901 and 1101. There are no special decorations and there is no bustling sounds. This looked just like ordinary residential apartments.

At around 3pm on the afternoon of August 23, the order was issued for several dozen police officers to break through the front doors. Meanwhile police officers in Jiangsu and Sichuan provinces took action at the same time. The apartments had been set up as workshops. The living rooms was divided into partitions, with one to three computers in each partition. People were seated in front of the computers, taking down orders, handing out assignments, receiving feedback, making posts ... the sudden intrusion by the police caught them by surprise.

Ever since last year, many rumors that drew broad attention have originated from these two apartments, including rumors such as "a certain local government is using high-pressured pumps to dump contaminated water more than 1,000 meters underground," "a certain winery is using industrial flavoring agents for blending" etc.

The police found that this "One Hundred Thousand Water Army"  website was mainly involved in illegal businesses, malicious hyping, intentional rumor-mongering and other criminal activities. As of the time of interdiction, the company has earned more than 1 million yuan in profits.  This company was employing more than 600 "hired guns" placed in 28 provinces.  They controlled V-designated celebrity microblogs which totalled 220 million followers, the largest one having 1.6 million followers and even the smallest one had 300,000 followers.

In September 2012, "One Hundred Thousand Water Army" received an order to hype that a certain winery was using industrial flavoring agents for blending. This was without any factual basis such as credible test results or even the identity of the client who was paying for this. As a result, the reputation of the winery was severely damaged. "One Hundred Thousand Water Army" earned more than 4,000 yuan as a result.

In March 2013, "One Hundred Thousand Water Army" acted at the behest of a client request to denounce a certain local government on the handling of contaminated water. No authoritative quality testing was conducted. Many different versions of the post appeared through the "water army", resulting in social anxiety and bad impact. As a result, the "One Hundred Thousand Water Army" earned more than 4,000 yuan.

In April 2013, the company acted according to a client request to turn a commercial dispute with a pharmaceutical company into a case of selling fake drugs.

Apart from rumor-mongering and smudging the reputations of others, this company also provided service in erasing negative information and rigging votes on the Internet. Between 2012 and 2013, the company conducted vote-rigging for a number of clients in Zhengzhou, Jiujiang, Xiangyang, Suizhou and elsewhere. In its most recent vote-rigging campaign, the company earned 15,400 yuan.

How did "One Hundred Thousand Water Army" get its orders? How did they organizers its hired guns to complete the missions? The police discovered that the company founder named Tang registered a company under the name of "Internet Technology Company" which established two websites: "One Hundred Thousand Water Army" and "Expert Hired Gun."  "One Hundred Thousand Water Army" was mainly responsible for promotion, claiming that it had the capability to accomplish eight types of missions, including hyping on BBS's/microblogs, hyping on QQ groups, adding followers for microblogs, etc. Its website provided the contact information for further discussions.

Once a job has been commissioned, the company went through "Expert Hired Gun" to allocate the assignments. This platform was especially designed for the technically adept. Hired guns from everywhere are welcomed to register and enroll anytime.

Once a hired gun has completed an assignment, he can go to the website and enumerate his accomplishments. The website provides detailed requirements and results for each assignment, as well as the detailed compensations. The company financial manager will issue the compensation accordingly, including wiring money to the accounts of the hired guns.

According to the Wuhan police, the so-called "Internet marketing companies" are in the business of manufacturing rumors and hyping discussion topics. Some of the V-designated celebrities will lend their microblogs out in exchange for money, so that the rumors have broad reach.

According to company founder Tang: "There are different prices for the various services on the Internet. We accept all kinds of assignments. We do not assess the assignments. We don't care about any social consequences. We will do them as long as the price is right. The V-designated celebrities participate through forwarding the rumors."

...

This reporter searched for the keyword "microblog" on a large Chinese e-commerce website, and found almost 50,000 sellers. The busiest seller completed 5,186 transactions with 4,886 persons last month. A seller provided the price list to this reporter: Making and distributing a microblog post costs 10 yuan to 200 yuan; each comment costs 50 cents.  Further, the client can specify the time and frequency, or ask for dissemination through 'bots', or "even summon V-designated celebrities to work."

"We have V-designated celebrities on hand, and they are influential. These people have to be compensated. It costs more to have V-designated celebrities forward the posts."

...

Previous Brief Comments


Section 3 of 3:  Blog posts

(September 04, 2013) The Case of Chen Baocheng  Journalist Chen Baocheng defends his ancestral home against forced demoliton with live microblog coverage

(September 10, 2012)  How Useful Are Pre-Election Public Opinion Polls and Exit Polls in Hong Kong?  Evaluating poll data from the Hong Kong University Public Opinion Programme and the Hong Kong Research Association against actual election results.

(July 10, 2012)  The Big Brawl in Chaoyang Park  Democracy is on the march in China as a female Sichuan TV reporter and her allies beat the crap out of Fifty Cent Gang member Wu Fatian.

Many, many more previous blog posts in the Blog Post Archive ...


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