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Chinese Reporter Killed over Gutter Oil?

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 6:24am
GILLIAN WONG, Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese police have rejected speculation that a journalist was murdered because of his reporting, saying Wednesday that he was killed while being robbed.

Internet users and some news reports had suggested that Sunday night's attack in which television reporter Li Xiang was stabbed at least 10 times was linked to an ongoing scandal involving recycled food oil.

The speculation appeared largely based on Li's last post on his microblog, which was a link to another news agency's online report last week about an alleged underground factory producing illegal recycled food oil, dubbed "gutter oil."

Police in Luoyang city in Henan province said in a statement Wednesday that Li was killed during a robbery and two suspects have been caught.

A Luoyang police official who refused to give his name said in a phone interview that there was no evidence the attack was related to Li's reporting. Phone calls to the Luoyang TV Station, where Li worked, rang unanswered.

The case underscores widespread public anger over the ongoing "gutter oil" scandal, the latest to tarnish China's food safety record after several embarrassing problems including deadly infant formula and pork tainted with a banned chemical. Recycled oil can contain carcinogens and traces of aflatoxin, a potentially deadly mold.

It also points to concerns that intrepid Chinese reporters exposing wrongdoing, corruption or abuse are sometimes attacked or threatened in order to silence them.

Fang Xuanchang, a science journalist in Beijing, was attacked last year by two thugs hired by a doctor who was angry about media coverage about him that Fang had directed.

Another reporter Sun Hongjie died after being beaten by six men at a construction site in the western Xinjiang region — an attack many Chinese journalists believe was in retaliation for his investigative work.

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