Confusion after Phoenix retracts report on callback of officials' children
The Hong Kong-based news website Phoenix has apologised to its readers and retracted a report that the offspring of mainland officials had been told to return to China within a year after completing their studies.
Phoenix "will take effective measures to strengthen the professional quality of its handling and editing of important news", a statement said on Tuesday evening, within hours after the article was published.
The report first appeared on Boxun on Sunday. Phoenix adapted the report almost without sourcing it to the overseas-based news aggregator, which tends to report unverified rumours.
Several Chinese-language newspapers in Hong Kong and mainland media including provincial news websites run by the national news agency Xinhua carried the report.
By Tuesday evening, censors put a brake to the report to prevent it from spreading further. References to the story were taken down from mainland Chinese websites, and searches for it have been blocked on microblogging platforms.
The retraction comes a month after another Hong Kong report - about a cab ride by President Xi Jinping - spread in mainland China. The Ta Kung Pao, a newspaper believed to be well connected in the mainland, had to retract the story and apologise.
According to the report on Tuesday, the Communist Party's chief corruption investigator Wang Qishan was set to announce new measures cracking down on officials sending their children abroad, the original report quoted "reliable sources" as saying.
Children of ministerial-level government officials were required to return to China within one year after graduating abroad, the report said. If they do not return, their parents' positions would be readjusted.
The report said the measures would apply to vice-ministerial level officials by next year and department-level officials by 2015.
The report came a day after Wang, head of the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, had ordered his staff to ditch VIP cards handed out by savvy businesspeople.
Several Communist Party leaders have sent their children to the US and Europe to study at more prestigious, albeit more expensive, universities, raising questions about their faith in the education system of the country they are leading.
Around 2010, Deng Xiaoping's grandson, Zhuodi, returned to China two years after graduating from law school at Duke University in North Carolina. He is now a deputy county head in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
Xi Jinping's daughter, Mingze, is believed to be studying at Harvard. Bo Xilai's son, Guagua, graduated from there a year ago.