Reporter Liu Hu has his name cleared after a year behind bars

By Huang Jingjing Source:Global Times Published: 2015-10-16 5:03:02

Liu Hu (center) interviews one of the friends of Zhao Kefeng (right) in Xiangyang, Hubei Province in November 2014. Zhao claims that her son Xu Hao, who has been jailed since 1997 for murder, was wrongly convicted. Photo: Courtesy of Liu Hu

After being arrested following his reports on the misconduct of several high-ranking officials on social media, investigative reporter Liu Hu was recently declared innocent when prosecutors in Beijing decided not to bring any charges against him.

Their decision means that the one year Liu spent in detention on allegations of defamation, extortion and creating disturbances has been officially classified as "wrongful," meaning that he can seek compensation from the State according to Chinese law.

Liu says the result shows that the judicial system works. "I'm happy that prosecutors could uphold the law and think independently. I'm confident in Chinese law," the 40-year-old said.

On August 23, 2013, Liu, then a reporter with Guangdong-based newspaper New Express, was taken from his home in Chongqing by Beijing police, a couple of weeks after he posted allegations of dereliction of duty or corruption against several officials.

Many netizens believe that Liu was detained as an act of retaliation by the officials; his wife bailed him out on August 3, 2014, and on September 10, 2015, Beijing's Dongcheng District People's Procuratorate announced that it would not prosecute Liu as the facts and evidence in the case were inadequate.

"The conclusion shows that [the prosecutors] couldn't confirm it was a crime, but it doesn't mean that he was free of fault," said a recent opinion piece published on, a news portal run by the Supreme People's Procuratorate.

Center of controversy

Liu's social accounts, which had up to 1.5 million followers, were shut down after his detention. The officials in question remain in their posts.

"I had received many requests from informants to help with their claims. Since their access to newspaper coverage was limited, I chose to repost some on my social accounts," Liu explained to the Global Times in a recent interview.

Beijing police accused him of defamation, trying to procure a total of 650,000 yuan ($102,000) through blackmail, speculating on sensitive social problems and damaging the government's credibility. Liu has rejected these accusations.

He said that one coal mine boss did offer to pay him 500,000 yuan to take down an online allegation that the boss's daughter had become a civil servant through illicit means and was freeloading. "I deleted the post but rejected the money. They later donated the money to a welfare house for children with disabilities," he said. The boss's daughter was eventually dismissed from her job, he added.

He told the media last month that he would demand State compensation. In a report on October 4, he told the Associated Press that he was forced to make a confession during the detention.

But on October 12 he said that he would no longer seek compensation, but declined to explain why he had changed his mind.

Road to fame

Due to his poor performance at school, Liu didn't sit the national college entrance exams after graduating from high school in 1994. However, he did have a talent for writing, and found an administrative job in a real estate company in his hometown in Wanzhou, Chongqing.

The next year he got a part-time job as a freelancer at a local newspaper, where he discovered a passion for journalism. Despite not having a strong educational background, he rose through the ranks to become a renowned investigative reporter, and went from working at local tabloids to large newspapers such as the Chengdu Economic Daily.

In November 2004, he reported on unchecked manganese ore mining and pollution in the border area between Hunan and Guizhou provinces and Chongqing. The reports drew nationwide attention, and the next year, then president Hu Jintao ordered a thorough investigation and treatment of the pollution.

Several of his reports, including one on a top student lying about his ethnicity in 2009, and a robbery that revealed the "hidden wealth" of the State-owned Shanxi Coking Coal chairman in 2011, were widely circulated.

"It became a mission for me to uncover the truth," Liu said. "It gives me a great sense of accomplishment as many problems exposed in my reports drew effective responses."

In 2011, he was one of the 10 Chinese winners of the Bayer Youth Environmental Reporter Award. In early 2013, netizens voted him their second favorite reporter in China on, a popular social networking site.

But he has also received some criticism for his reporting. In April 20, 2013 when the Lushan earthquake occurred, Liu posted two photos of what he said was the quake-hit site on his Sina Weibo account. However, netizens found that the pictures had been taken during the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake.

His account was quickly suspended by Sina Weibo administrators. He then apologized through a colleague's Weibo account, explaining that the photos had been sent by a local reporter in Sichuan Province.

Despite the apology, many netizens deemed it irresponsible for a reporter to publish information without checking it or indicating its source, and even claimed that he fabricated news to attract readers.

Making a comeback

Nevertheless, neither that criticism nor his detention have stopped him from writing his reports.

After being bailed out from his detention last year, he quit the New Express and joined the Changjiang Times. Recently, he said he has left the Changjiang Times and is considering to join another media outlet. Currently, he works as a freelancer.

On October 12, his in-depth report on a bomb that detonated near a court, killing a persistent petitioner in Anyang, Henan Province, was published by, or Wujie Media.

Liu's persistence has seen him facing difficulties not just in his career, but in the wider industry; in recent years, many media outlets have reportedly met with financial difficulties and a number of workers have left the industry.

"I am sticking with the industry because I love it, " Liu said. "Although it is facing lots of difficulties now, the more difficulties there are, the more value it has for me to hold on."

On his new Weibo account, which opened in June, he maintains his outspoken style, posting or reposting news about officials' misdeeds and people's suffering.

He says he won't stop whistle-blowing. "But I will be more cautious and rigorous in evaluating the significance and necessity of the tip-off," he said.

He is proud of the fact that his previous reporting has resulted in several corrupt officials such as Yang Dacai, head of the Shaanxi Administration of Work Safety; Su Hao, director of the Taiyuan Public Security Bureau; and his successors Li Yali and Liu Suiji, being dismissed.

Newspaper headline: Eye of the storm

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