Hi, I’m the Deputy Editor of the People’s Daily. Bribe Me!

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Journalism, as practiced in China by genuine Chinese journalists—genuine in the sense of trying to report something other than the Party line– is a tough business. Reporters and editors constantly have to figure out much of the Party’s ire they can risk without having the hammer come down on them. Dismissal—or worse—can always be one story away.
That’s part of the reason it’s so depressing to read stories about scam journalists in China, like this one today from Reuters. Unfortunately these kind of guys are all over the place, though few quite so brazen. (And to be fair, China is hardly the only place where people pose as journalists hoping to be bribed. It was common in Russia when I was there in the late 90s, and is hardly unknown in a lot of other developing countries.)
Liu Yonghong, according to this Reuters piece, finally got nailed after impersonating the Deputy Editor of the People’s Daily. You have to wonder, though in reading this piece, how gullible the guy paying the pseudo editor must have been: over a year he forks over some $400,000 before he presumably figures out that it might not have been money well spent.
(Note that there is a bit of a math problem in this piece. Converted to US dollars 3.79 million RMB –the sum Liu Yonghong is said to have received–is about $473,750, not, repeat NOT, 247.4 million pounds, which is a mind boggling $493.5 million.)

Wed 9 May 2007

Fake reporter gets life for scam

BEIJING (Reuters) – A man who posed as an editor for China’s top newspaper and promised to do people favours in exchange for bribes totalling about half a million U.S. dollars has been jailed for life, the paper said on Wednesday.

The People’s Daily, mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, said Liu Yonghong had claimed to be its deputy chief editor and swindled victims out of large sums of money by promising to use his sway to secure official jobs and promotions.

Most of the 3.79 million yuan (247.4 million pounds) he received from the scam was taken from one person between 2002 and 2003.

“He said the money was needed to bribe Party and government cadres,” the paper reported. Liu had pleaded not guilty, it said.

Scams involving fake journalists are common in China, where official media are treated as an arm of government and journalists can use their influence to generate or silence stories.

The swindlers often demand money from officials or businessmen by threatening to expose corruption or promising positive press.
The genuine deputy chief editor of the People’s Daily holds a high official rank in the Communist Party. In a front-page commentary, the paper said Liu’s jailing “effectively protected the image of the Party newspaper and social justice.”
(c) Reuters 2007.