The Economic Observer's Shanghai-based reporter Qiu Ziming was put on a national database of wanted criminals after publishing a series of articles over inside trading by a Chinese company.
Chinese newspapers have become more investigative
The articles referred to the Kan Specialities Material Corporation of southern China, which is based in the Suichang county of Zhejiang province and listed on the stock exchange of Shenzhen. It manufactures paper. The accusation against 28-year-old Qiu was of "alleged damage to a company's business reputation". Qiu himself has gone into hiding, and it is not clear as yet whether the removal of his name from the "most wanted" list implies that the police will stop looking for him. But even that removal can be considered a victory for media freedom in China.
The putting of Qiu's name on the national most-wanted database caused a public outcry, by Chinese standards. Not only did his own paper, the business weekly called The Economic Observer, post a statement on its website registering their shock at Qiu's inclusion, but went on to " strongly condemn the use of public power to suppress public opinion and any threats to the personal safety of media workers".
Qiu accuses a company of insider trading on the stock market
Qiu himself posted an online message on Wednesday saying that he stood by his evidence of insider trading at Kan Specialities. Since he went on the run a few days ago, Qiu has received broad support on the Internet. His Weibo account has gained 8,000 "followers". An online poll conducted by leading portal Sina.com, which offers the Twitter-like service, drew over 33,000 responses, overwhelmingly in Qiu's favour.
A force on their own
Most large Chinese companies are at least partially state run, whereas the ruling Communist Party still has tight control over media content. Nevertheless, Chinese media has gradually become more aggressive in exposing corporate and official malpractice, just as Chinese Internet users have become a force on their own, both in exposing official abuses as well as in pressuring authorities - as in the case of Qiu Ziming.
Editor: Grahame Lucas