Media ban over reported firings

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 June, 2007, 12:00am

Guangdong authorities yesterday banned local media from following up a report that several officials had been dismissed over irregularities in the accounts of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen Railway Group.

'The provincial propaganda department early this morning notified all local media not to follow or reprint the [New Express] report,' said Xie Xiaoling , Guangzhou Railway Group news officer.

Quoting a June 2 speech by He Yuhua , newly appointed chairman of the Guangzhou Railway Group, the New Express said the National Audit Office (NAO) had uncovered serious accounting problems in the Guangzhou-Shenzhen Railway's Route Four project, a fourth inter-city link under construction.

Some Guangzhou journalists confirmed yesterday they had been notified of the ban that morning, but declined to give details.

In his speech, which was posted on several websites, Mr He said Chen Shaohong, deputy general-manager of the Guangzhou Railway Group, was dismissed on May 30.

Seven staff members from the Route Four project headquarters and four from the Shihuai headquarters linked to the irregularities were removed from their posts the next day, and two of the 11 were put under shuanggui, an internal Communist Party disciplinary investigation.

The article, which could still be found on some mainland websites yesterday, said Premier Wen Jiabao had been told about the problems and made 'important comments' on the matter.

Although Ms Xie did not deny Mr He delivered the speech, she insisted the New Express report was not true, saying it was based on postings from unknown sources on the internet.

'The New Express did not verify the facts with us before they used the posted material,' she said. 'And nobody from the audit office has told us that somebody in the group was under shuanggui.'

But Ms Xie admitted that during the audit some people may need to temporarily leave their positions if they had problems to explain.

She said the NAO would examine all railway projects countrywide.

'The audit will just go through the construction accounts,' she said. 'It has nothing to do with the series of recent delays [in Guangzhou-Shenzhen services].'

Four serious delays had occurred since construction started on Route Four in August, disrupting the travel plans of thousands of passengers.