18 February 2019

Zoomlion snared in reporter’s detention saga

It was an unusual front page for New Express on Wednesday. The Guangzhou-based daily demanded in bold type the immediate release of one of its reporters held in criminal detention, openly questioning the legality of the arrest. Reading between the lines, the newspaper appeared to point the finger of blame at Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science & Technology CO. Ltd. (01157.HK).

The saga unfolded after New Express reporter Chen Yongzhou {陳永洲} wrote a story in May casting doubt on Zoomlion’s financial statements. The company fought back on Sina Weibo and accused the newspaper of distributing a false report. As a result, New Express filed a defamation action against Zoomlion and the parties are still wrangling over where the case should be heard.

Chen was arrested last Friday in Guangzhou by public security officers from Changsha, the stronghold of the construction machinery maker. According to the newspaper, Chen was charged with prejudicing Zoomlion’s business reputation. 

Zoomlion will announce its third quarter results next week and the counter should be on the up. Following a year-long industry downturn, there are increasing signs that heavy machinery manufacturing is on course for recovery, albeit slowly, amid revivals in the housing market and fixed-asset investment. But the detention case will cast a shadow over Zoomlion for some time.

The arrest of a journalist is not uncommon in China so perhaps those outside the newspaper were not prepared for the strength of New Express’s reaction.

– Contact the writer at [email protected]



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