Zhejiang journalist receives internet death threats over housing market reports

Police are investigating threats made against a Wenzhou city reporter on a popular forum

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 October, 2013, 4:05pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 October, 2013, 4:27pm

Local police have begun investigations after a reporter received death threats for his stories on the cooling housing market in Wenzhou city, Zhejiang province.

On October 8, administrators of the popular Wenzhou message board discovered a post made by a user named “Luoju Luoshui”. The post entitled “If you want to save the Wenzhou economy, first kill Diyi Caijing Ribao reporter Chen Zhouxi” incited an uproar amongst forum readers.

Administrators deleted the post, but it re-appeared the next day, complete with a multiple choice voting poll, where the options were “kill”, “do not kill”, and “abstain from voting”.

“The changes in Wenzhou’s economy and the actions of this double-crossing finance reporter are connected,” a section of the post read. “All of the negative reports about Wenzhou were done by him … For the sake of Wenzhou’s economy, it’s necessary for Chen Zhouxi to become a victim of the system.”

Chen Zhouxi, who has worked for years at popular business paper Diyi Caijing Ribao, known in English as First Financial Daily, was notified soon after the post re-appeared and reported the matter to Wenzhou local police.

After considering the nature of the post, authorities decided to classify it formally as a hate threat, and investigations to determine the identity of the “Luoju Luoshui” poster are ongoing.

In statements released in a Diyi Caijing Ribao follow-up article after the incident, Chen speculated that the forum post had been motivated by a number of articles he had written about the regional economy of Zhejiang province – particularly the cooling housing market in Wenzhou city.

Chen also asserted that all of the articles he had written were objective and rational analyses of Wenzhou housing trends, and the forum poster had ignored the truths in his work in favour of making violent demands.

Zhang Zhian, vice president of the School of Communication and Design at Guangzhou’s Sun Yat-sen University, told Diyi Caijing Ribao that while online hate speech in microblogs and forums was often not serious, precautions still needed to be taken if violent and obvious threats were made against another person.

“If someone makes a joke on a microblog saying that they’re going to go blow up a government building, then police are entitled to take some direct measures,” Zhang said. “They may detain or question someone. And if someone writes something online about a citizen by name, saying ‘kill this person’, the police would be failing in their duty if they did not investigate the poster and at least give a warning.”