2017-08-29 12:56:48

The head of a tourism industry newspaper has been accused of graft in an article appearing in his own publication.

Published Monday on the website of Tourism Commercial News, the article alleges that the company’s president, Fu Chong, overcharged his own journalists for an exam they needed to take in order to apply for a press card, pocketing some of the extra money.

Bylined by “a reporter with a press card,” the article said that Fu asked newspaper staff to pay 2,000 yuan ($300) for a professional credentials exam — twice as much as provincial regulations say it should cost. People who didn’t work at the newspaper could also take the test for 3,500 yuan, the article said. All fees were transferred directly to Fu’s personal WeChat Wallet account, a mobile payment feature on a popular messaging app, as shown by screenshots included in the article.

Sixth Tone could not verify these accusations. When Sixth Tone called Tourism Commercial News, an employee said the company would publish a statement about the allegations on its website “as soon as possible.” The article was still online Tuesday afternoon.

An official at the provincial department that oversees media in Shaanxi, the province in northwestern China where Tourism Commercial News is headquartered, told city newspaper Modern Express that they are investigating the case and that a person surnamed Fu had been asked to come in for questioning. The official said he expected the investigation to be concluded in early September.

Press cards are issued by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT), and give journalists the right to conduct interviews, as well as other benefits such as free access to some tourist attractions. At the end of 2016, there were more than 220,000 accredited journalists in China.

Tourism Commercial News had broken the rules surrounding press cards in the past, too. In a 2014 report, SAPPRFT said that the newspaper had accepted money from unqualified people in exchange for helping them obtain press credentials. Tourism Commercial News was issued a warning and fined 20,000 yuan for this and other infractions.

However, an open letter published in May and penned by someone who claimed to work for the company that owns Tourism Commercial News, claimed Fu hadn’t stopped selling press cards after the punishment. The letter was deleted on Tuesday, but a cached version is still available online.

The letter also called on people to supply more evidence of Fu’s alleged corruption, which would in turn be submitted to SAPPRFT and the provincial discipline inspection department of Shaanxi.

“To bring ‘flies’ like Tourism Commercial News president Fu Chong to justice as soon as possible,” concluded the letter, “we are collecting any chat histories, cooperation contracts, and transaction slips showing him selling press cards.”

Editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.

(Header image: Journalists take an exam to receive press cards in Nantong, Jiangsu province, Feb. 15, 2014. Xu Congjun/IC)