Chinese corruption reporter disappears

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The Independent Online

The security tapes show it all - Chinese investigative reporter Guan Jian snooping around the hotel lobby at 6pm before he is surrounded by a group of five men and hustled into a shiny silver SUV.

In a separate case, Li Min, a prominent legal affairs journalist for the state broadcaster CCTV, opened the door of her Beijing home to four men who said they had come to fix a gas leak. They turned out to be four police men who arrested her, claiming she took bribes during her investigation of a property scandal.

Both cases highlight the precarious situation that Chinese journalists find themselves when trying to report on corruption. Even though the official line from central government has shifted to allow greater press freedom on reporting graft, powerful local cadres can still wield powerful influence.

The footage from 1 December is the last known sighting of Mr Guan, who writes for the Wangluo Bao newspaper. He was probing corruption claims in a potentially dodgy property deal in Taiyuan, in the northern province of Shanxi, the Beijing News reported. There may have been illegal land use by a real estate company with official connections. The newspaper said he had not contacted his family since the footage was taken and the local police have set up a task force.

Meanwhile, Ms Li had been investigating Shanxi property developers for a story about abuse of authority. Two of the businessmen involved, Wu Xiaohui, and Hao Jianxiu, are powerful Communist Party officials, both engaged in a property dispute

The fact that Shanxi police were able to detain Ms Li despite her living in Beijing suggests powerful political connections have been brought into play. According to blog entries, Chinese journalists are under strict instructions not to report or "sensationalise" the cases, but the consensus is that the reporters are being targeted for probing corruption in Shanxi, a coal-mining area with a poor record on transparency.