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Reporters Without Borders supports today's appeal by Xin Kuai Bao (The New Express), a newspaper based in Guangdong province, for the release of one of its journalists, Chen Yongzhou, who has been detained since 18 October.
"We hail the newspaper's courage in exposing itself to more reprisals by daring to defy the silence imposed by the authorities," Reporters Without Borders said. "We caution the government and Guangdong authorities against any additional repressive measures against the newspaper and its staff.
"The government cannot hope to hush up an abuse of authority by resorting to an even bigger one. Chen Yongzhu's release is the only rational solution to this situation. We also call for the release of Liu Hu, a fellow Xin Kuai Bao reporter who is being held for similar reasons.
"Reporters who cover corruption and expose the fraudulent activities of well-placed individuals or leading companies provide information of public interest. The government must stop harassing journalists and netizens and must end its ‘anti-rumour' campaign, which is a pretext for stifling dissent."
Reached by Reporters Without Borders, a member of the Xin Kuai Bao staff said: "The newspaper could no longer accept the situation in which it found itself."
The newspaper issued its appeal for Chen Yongzhu's release in the form of an editorial on today's front page with a headline consisting of three very large Chinese characters that said: "Please release our man."
The editorial blamed his arrest on a series of articles he wrote accusing Zoomlion, a leading construction machinery company, of misreporting its income. The newspaper said it was ready to accept that errors may have been made in the articles, but it would do so only in a manner established by the law.
Chen was arrested by police from Changsha (in the southern province of Hunan), the city where Zoomlion is based. The police were reportedly also looking for the newspaper's business editor.
Liu Hu, the other detained Xin Kuai Bao journalist, was formally charged with defamation on 30 September after being arrested on 24 August in connection with a 29 July post on his Sina Weibo account implicating the state administration deputy director for industry and commerce in corruption.
China is on the Reporters Without Borders list of "Enemies of the Internet" and is ranked 173rd out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. Read the 2013 special report on surveillance, "Enemies of the Internet" - China.