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2019-03-20 13:00:31

A Chinese journalist at one of the country’s biggest state media outlets is under fire for allegedly disclosing the identities of sources who wished to remain anonymous.

Li Yifan, a reporter for The Beijing News, was accused of revealing the personal information of two of the six so-called comfort women — a phrase used to describe the sex slaves kept by Japanese soldiers during the Second Sino-Japanese War — included in his story without their consent, a researcher from the Research Center for Comfort Women wrote on his Weibo microblog Monday. Chen Dongliang, who works at one of the organization’s branches in the central province of Hunan, also claimed that the story contained false anecdotes involving the women.

The Beijing News has dismissed the allegations. In a statement Tuesday, the news outlet said it had contacted the women’s family members and that all of them had agreed to on-the-record interviews. Addressing accusations about the fabricated anecdotes, The Beijing News said its reporter had used information obtained from the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall and the Research Center for Comfort Women.

The article, published March 13, included the story of two Chinese comfort women — cousins — who were identified earlier this month in Yueyang, Hunan province. The reporter had also interviewed four other women who detailed the atrocities they experienced during the Japanese invasion.

However, Chen told Sixth Tone on Wednesday that The Beijing News’ reporter hadn’t interviewed two of the women identified at all. Instead, the researcher claimed that he had provided Li with the information and both women had requested anonymity. Chen also said he was the first person to discover the identities of the two women after one of their daughters contacted him. A group of researchers with the Research Center for Comfort Women have also condemned the reporter’s “bad behavior.”

An individual claiming to be the grandson of one of the women supported Chen’s claims in a Weibo post on Tuesday. The man, surnamed He, said the reporter had verbally promised to grant anonymity, and that his grandmother had been disturbed by the breach of trust. He also added that the family had asked Chen to pursue the matter on their behalf.

On Wednesday morning, a person claiming to be Li’s friend took to Weibo to clarify the matter, posting an audio recording of a purported March 19 phone call between the journalist and the grandson. In it, the two can be heard talking about the women. During the nearly two minutes of audio, the person alleged to be He said that his grandmother and great-aunt had no issues with their names being printed, and that Chen hadn’t contacted the family since the article was published.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: Radius Images/VCG)