The past few months have been tough for the Chinese government. In June, a retail bubble in the Chinese stock market popped, causing the market to take a major plunge despite government efforts to stabilize it.
Facing a slew of negative press over the two incidents, China has decided to start rounding up scapegoats to divert some of the blame away from the government. In the weeks since the Tianjin explosions, China has arrested 197 individuals for the crime of “spreading rumors”.
Among those arrested was Wang Xiaolu, a reporter from a respected Chinese business publication called Caijing Magazine. On Monday (Aug. 31), CCTV — China’s state-owned television network — broadcast footage of Wang “confessing” to his crimes. The Washington Post reports:
A weary-looking Wang said he obtained information about China’s securities regulator “through private channels” and then added his “own subjective judgment” to the report. “During a sensitive period, I should not have published a report which had such a huge negative impact,” he said.
In other words, Wang was punished for having a good source and using his knowledge of Chinese economics to help people understand what was going on with the stock market — something we might call “great reporting” here in the United States.
Back in July, during the height of the crash, Wang wrote an article claiming that the China Securities and Regulatory Commission (CSRC) was considering whether or not to stop stabilizing share prices.
When it was published, the CSRC denied the report and called it “irresponsible”. But just a month later, the commission actually did stop stabilizing share prices, suggesting that Wang’s report was indeed accurate. Despite this fact, however, Wang was arrested on charges of spreading “false information.”
Wang’s arrest and forced confession has drawn harsh criticism from journalists and civil rights activists around the world. Shortly after Wang was detained, the organization Reporters Without Borders issued a statement condemning his arrest and calling for his immediate release. In the statement, Christophe Deloire, the group’s secretary-general, writes,
“Suggesting that a business journalist was responsible for the spectacular fall in share prices is a denial of reality. Blaming the stock market crisis on a lone reporter is beyond absurd.”