The Chinese government has now arrested nearly 200 journalists, stock market officials, and others, following the recent crash of the Chinese stock market. The arrests for “rumors,” inaccurate reporting, and insider trading included high-profile journalist Wang Xiaolu, who has reportedly “confessed” to causing the crash. The arrests were not solely focused on China’s troubled stock market, as some were accused of exaggerating reports of the recent Tianjin explosion and for spreading other, unspecified rumors.
According to Xinhua, a Chinese state-run news agency, 197 individuals were arrested for rumors and other offenses on the Saturday and Sunday following the events of August 31, 2015, which are now being referred to as China’s Black Monday. Six individuals, including a journalist, a government official, and four investment bank executives, have been placed under “criminal compulsory measures,” in connection with the arrests, according to Xinhua.
The nebulous term “criminal compulsory measures” could mean that any number of fates await the men who were arrested for spreading rumors, insider trading, and other charges. According to Voice of America, they could be placed under home surveillance, charged with a specific crime, or even detained indefinitely without charge.
Oliver Rui, of the China Europe International Business School, told Voice of America that the government has obtained hard evidence against four of the men, all of whom are executives with Citic Securities. Potential charges against the arrested men include insider trading and accepting bribes. According to Rui, the arrests are part of the Chinese government’s attempts to restore confidence in the market.
“The government clearly wants to send a very strong signal to the markets that, if anyone wants to be the enemy of the government, they will be punished eventually.”
In lieu of hard evidence, the Ministry of Public Security released a statement that Wang Xiaolu, a reporter arrested as part of the weekend crackdown, had confessed to spreading rumors that caused the stock market crash. Xiaolu penned a report on July 20, 2015, that suggested the Chinese Securities Regulatory Commission was planning to withdraw government funds from the market. In his confession, Xiaolu stated that he had “colluded with others and fabricated fake information” in writing that report.
Due to the swift nature in which the confession was obtained, some have voiced concerns over the government’s treatment of Xiaolu after his arrest. Zhang Qianfan, of Peking Law School, spoke of his concerns to Voice of America.
“Many have long expressed concern over whether China has followed due process in arrest and investigations. If the accused is coerced to make the confession, a fair trial is unlikely to be guaranteed.”
In the days following the crash of the Chinese stock market, Beijing took a number of actions intended to mitigate the effects of the crash and deflect blame. As reported by the BBC, these recent arrests for spreading rumors reflect a change in tactics, as senior Chinese regulatory officials stated on Thursday that the government would focus on punishing individuals accused of “destabilizing the market.”
The Chinese government also closed 165 online accounts in connection with the recent arrests, according to Xinhua. Although the weekend crackdown focused on the stock market crash, Xinhua reported that others were arrested for rumors such as “at least 1,300 people were killed in Tianjin blasts” and unspecified seditious rumors relating to the upcoming 7oth anniversary of the end of World War II.
[Image via Getty Images AsiaPac]