Reporters Without Borders condemns Chinese business reporter Wang Xiaolu’s arrest over an article that is alleged to have precipitated a fall in share prices at the end of July.
Wang Xiaolu, who works for the independent business magazine Caijing, was arrested at his Beijing home on 25 August for “fabricating and spreading false information about securities and futures trading.” Published in Caijing on 20 July, the offending article said that the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), which polices the Chinese stock markets, was considering ending interventions aimed at stabilizing share prices. The day after its publication, the CSRC described the article as “irresponsible” and subsequently blamed it for the 27 July fall in prices on the Shanghai exchange, the forerunner of this month’s crash. The authorities have not yet said whether Wang has been formally charged. Eight employees of the stockbroking company CITIC Securities and two CSRC employees have also been arrested. Officially, they are “assisting the investigation” into illegal share trading. “We call for Wang Xiaolu’s immediate release without any charges being brought against this Caijing reporter,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “As well as ridiculous, the accusations against Wang are symptomatic of the Chinese government’s desire to control media coverage of share price movements. 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.” The Chinese authorities have gone to great lengths to censor media and online coverage of the recent dramatic movements in share prices. The leading Communist Party-controlled media outlets such as People’s Daily, Xinhua and CCTV have not covered or have barely covered the market movements. At the same time, many directives have been issued to website operators demanding the suppression of analyses of the Shanghai crash or articles regarded as alarmist. China is ranked 176th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.