MEDIA
10/30/2013 06:30 am ET Updated Dec 30, 2013

Chen Yongzhou, Chinese Reporter, Arrested In Government Crackdown

Police stand guard as officials arrive for the trial of disgraced politician Bo Xilai on the fourth day of Bo's trial at the
Police stand guard as officials arrive for the trial of disgraced politician Bo Xilai on the fourth day of Bo's trial at the Intermediate People's Court in Jinan, Shandong Province on August 25, 2013. Once one of China's highest-flying politicians, Bo Xilai found himself in the criminal dock on trial for bribery and abuse of power in the country's highest-profile prosecution in decades. His downfall began when a British businessman was found dead in a hilltop hotel room. As the drama finally nears its conclusion, the Communist Party is touting it as proof of its intent to crack down on corruption. AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

BEIJING, Oct 30 (Reuters) - A Chinese journalist who repeatedly criticized a major state-owned construction equipment maker has been formally arrested on a charge of damaging its reputation, Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday, in the latest twist in the high-profile case.

The charges come as the government moves to crack down on freedom of expression by journalists, lawyers, whistleblowers and internet users.

Chen Yongzhou, a reporter for New Express tabloid, confessed on state television on Saturday to accepting bribes for fabricating more than a dozen stories that claimed Changsha-based Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science and Technology Co. Ltd. engaged in sales fraud, exaggerated its profits and used black public relations tactics, accusations strongly denied by the company.

Chen's case caused a public stir when his newspaper published two large front-page commentaries last week asking authorities to "please release him" after he was detained - an unusually bold move in a country where newspapers self-censor to avoid repercussions from the government.

On Sunday, New Express recanted its support for Chen and added its own apology, saying it had behaved unethically and damaged the credibility of the news media. Shares of Zoomlion surged on Monday after the news.

Zoomlion told Reuters last week it had complained to Changsha police, who arrested Chen, leading critics to point to Zoomlion's influence over city authorities. [ID:ID:nL3N0ID1BZ]

It is not clear who bribed Chen, but Zoomlion has in the past accused its hometown rival, Sany Group Co. Ltd., of planting critical stories about it, accusations Sany has denied.

The public feud between the two firms has sometimes turned ugly, with each accusing the other of using sleazy tactics to gain market share amid a slowdown in the industry. (Reporting By Megha Rajagopalan; editing by Nick Macfie)

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