The president and a vice-president of People.cn – the website of People’s Daily – have been taken away by Henan prosecutors for alleged bribery, state media reported on Friday. Several mainland media outlets reported the news last night but their stories were quickly removed. The president Liao Hong, 52, helped to launch the website in 1997, according to his public profile. He joined the newspaper after graduating from Beijing University of Technology 30.years ago. He was detained along with website vice-president Chen Zhixia, 44, Xinhua and CCTV reported, without specifying when this happened or why Henan prosecutors were tasked with the job. It’s possible the top prosecutor’s office had concerns over a potential conflict of interest for local prosecutors. People.cn’s corporate vehicle suspended trading on the Shanghai stock exchange yesterday afternoon, citing a need to “clarify media reports”, according to a company announcement. Shares had risen 2.28 per cent before the suspension. A media source close to the website, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the investigation into Liao and Chen was related to the detention of a deputy editor at the website, Xu Hui, in May. Xu had allegedly threatened to run negative stories about companies unless they agreed to advertising deals. Liao’s last public appearance was on August 20, when he spoke at a forum in Shenzhen about the integration of traditional and digital media. Liao was also the chief editor of the website. He supported a decision to publish a video documentary about the mainland’s air pollution problem, called Under the Dome , in February. The film became a huge sensation, triggering discussion online, and the website ran an interview with its creator, former CCTV journalist Chai Jing. But within days, censors had removed the video from websites. Liao came under pressure and lost his title as editor-in-chief in April, news website 163.com reported on Thursday. Last year, the president of the influential 21st Century Media Group was held over an extortion racket similar to the one Xu is accused of running. He later admitted he was involved in soliciting illegal gains from companies in exchange for ensuring they received positive news coverage. “I knew a long time ago that extortion in journalism is a kind of economic crime. But it’s no secret in the media community and it’s very common,” Xinhua quoted Shen as saying. Mainland business weekly Caijin reported on its website that Niu Yibing, a Tianjin Daily veteran and director of People’s Daily’s local news coverage, would replace Liao.