2018-11-23 12:16:53

Two men stood trial in central China on Wednesday after attempting to use hundreds of thousands of yuan to bribe a journalist employed by The Paper, Sixth Tone’s sister publication, according to a Thursday report from the outlet.

A district court in the city of Zhengzhou in Henan province has yet to announce a ruling in the case, which concerns an attempted payoff of roughly 300,000 yuan ($47,000) to the journalist. According to The Paper, the two defendants pleaded guilty, while their lawyers didn’t raise any objections to the details of the case as they were presented in court.

In May, reporter Chen Xingwang was investigating fraudulent claims made in advertisements for “the safest, quickest product for hair growth” from the manufacturer Henan Ruite Bang Industrial Co. Ltd. In the course of his work, Chen found that the company Zhengzhou Tiqiao Commercial & Trading Co. Ltd. had launched the product’s marketing campaign, and he made his findings public in a series of reports published between May and June. On Nov. 14, China’s State Administration for Market Regulation announced that Tiqiao would have its business license revoked and be fined 1.47 million yuan for its misleading ads.

But during a reporting trip to Zhengzhou in May, a man surnamed Hua contacted Chen repeatedly to discuss the investigation. In a phone call and at a dinner meeting with Chen on May 12, Hua claimed to be a Tiqiao shareholder and a native of Chen’s hometown. On May 13, Hua visited Chen at his hotel room, leaving behind a backpack filled with bundles of cash. After failing in his attempt to have Hua retrieve the bag, Chen immediately contacted The Paper, the local disciplinary commission, and the district police bureau to report the incident.

Hua was detained in September following a police investigation, while a legal representative for Tiqiao surnamed Hou was also detained for allegedly enlisting Hua — who is in fact not a Tiqiao shareholder — in the affair. The district procuratorate, or public prosecutor’s office, charged the two men in October with bribing nonstate staff. Chen had earlier provided police with audio recordings of conversations in which Hua can be heard offering 300,000 yuan to Chen and 50,000 yuan to The Paper.

On Thursday, Chen told Sixth Tone that he had faced several experiences similar to this in the past. “When [they] speak of money, it’s necessary to reject it immediately,” Chen said in reference to would-be bribers. Hua is currently in police custody and as such could not be reached for comment.

Earlier this month, a reporter for financial news outlet Caixin was harassed by police at her hotel while investigating a chemical spill in eastern China’s Fujian province.

Editor: Layne Flower.

(Header image: A screenshot from a hair product advertisement that reporter Chen Xingwang found had made fraudulent claims. IC)