Fact Checking NYT’s Qi Chonghuai Jailed Journalist Story

Recently New York Times published a story on a jailed Chinese journalist Qi Chonghuai, and made some fairly severe, usual allegations (corruption, official misconduct, torture), and a new one – double jeopardy violation in resentencing Qi to more jail time for the crime he served 4 years already, because he vowed to continue to expose official graft.

Since it was written by Andrew Jacobs (someone I consider to be the grand wizard of NYT’s China reporting), and given NYT’s past record of biased reporting when it comes to China, I decided to dig into this story for details that might have been suppressed. Guess what?

1) Let’s get the biggie out of the way – Chinese netters have confirmed Qi Chonghuai was convicted of raping a 10-year old girl in 1986. Does that sound like a righteous crusader to you? It appears Jacobs didn’t bother to look into Qi’s felonious past, only to regurgitate claims made by US government funded group HRIC without questioning their veracity:

 

2) Jacobs reported Qi Chonghuai’s recent trial constituted violation of double jeopardy. However according to case detail posted by Qi’s defense lawyer, Qi’s recent trial was not based on previously convicted crime, but due to a new victim coming forward earlier this year to report his case of extortion Qi committed in 2006:

On 3/28/2011, Mr. Zhang from a starch factory at Xinzhu Village in Dongguo Town, Tengzhou City, reported a case to Dongguo police. After the factory’s corn silo collapsed on 4/1/2006, a man claimed to be Qi Chonghuai from “China Legal News” came with a partner for an interview, where they threatened to publish an inaccurate story and extorted 4000 RMB from the starch factory.

2011年3月28日,滕州市东郭镇辛绪村一家淀粉厂张某,到东郭镇派出所报警称,2006年4月1日其淀粉厂因发生玉米存储崩裂事件,后有一名叫齐崇怀的人自称是《法制早报》驻山东记者伙同他人来采访,并以在报纸上报道一篇失实的文稿相威胁,敲诈淀粉厂现金4000元

3) Jacobs also reported Qi Chonghuai was arrested after writing story exposing the lavish government office built by Tengzhou City officials on state-run media. But according to Chinese bloggers familiar with the case, Qi never wrote for any state-run media. Qi merely posted rumors on XinhuaNet and Tanya discussion forums (anyone can register and post) that were subsequently mentioned by the media:

He posted pictures on XinhuaNet forum, exposing the city’s lavish government building

他在新华网发展论坛曝光了该市豪华政府大楼的照片

4) Does that sound like a legitmate reporter, posting on discussion forums? According to investigation of the 2007 case, Qi Chonghuau’s only journalist connection is he operated a website chinalegalnews.com that claimed to be connected to a parent site legaldaily.com.cn. However according to Legal Daily website operator Yuan Chenbeng (袁成本), “Legal Daily” folded and became “Legal Daily Weekender” in October 2006, and Qi’s work permit was withdrawn. In another word Jacobs ignored the fact at the time of Qi’s arrest he was at a minimum using expired reporter credential:

Legal Daily did provide Qi Chinghuai with work permit in July 2006, who’s charge was development of China Legal News in Shandong. In October 2006, Legal Daily folded and became Legal Daily Weekender, and Qi’s work permit was withdrawn

《法制日报》2006年7月曾经给齐崇淮发过一个工作证,齐的职责是负责《法制早报》在山东的发行工作。2006年10月,《法制早报》停刊改为《法制日报·周末》,齐的工作证也被收了上来

5) Even Qi Chonghuai’s defense lawyer admits Qi took money (Qi’s racket was hint at large per-diem in exchange for not starting on-line rumor mongoring campaigns):

The few fees defendant had admitted to, is in reality a form of forced “bribe”

从被告人承认的几项费用来看,实际上是被迫接受了一种“贿赂”

And finally, did the Tengzhou city officials built themselves a lavish office building? According to a 2007 report of the case, Tengzhou official responded that the new city hall actually includes a convention center and corporate office leases. The city hall portion of the mixed-use building is fairly small. The reason a new city hall was built is because the old city hall is being condemned, and the valuable downtown lot was turned over for commercial development:

Regarding the office building, Yue Muxiang from PR department says it’s hardly lavish. It’s only new, Yue says the building may look big, but to accomodate 40 departments, 4-5 people has to tightly squeeze into one office.
Yue says, the former city hall was decrepet and condemned twice already, affecting staff safety. That’s why they were forced to build a new city hall.

谈到被曝光的办公大楼,宣传部新闻科赵曰祥认为,大楼根本算不上豪华,只不过是新盖的。他说,这栋楼看起来很大,但要容纳40个部门。我们每个办公室都要坐四五个人,相当拥挤。
赵说,以前的市委市政府办公楼已经破败不堪,有关部门两次鉴定结果都是危房,已经影响人员安全,不允许继续使用,才被迫建的新楼。

43 thoughts on “Fact Checking NYT’s Qi Chonghuai Jailed Journalist Story

  1. Point (1) is despicable, Charles Liu.

    According to the posted document, Qi Chonghuai the rapist is from the village of Beiqi in Xiangcheng, Zouxian, Shandong. At age 21, with only a primary school education, he was sentenced to nine years in prison.

    Is that the same person as Qi Chonghuai the reporter/forum poster, who was born in Shenyang, Liaoning Province in 1965 (same year), is college educated, got married in 1995, and moved to Shandong in 1996?

  2. jdmartinsen :
    Point (1) is despicable, Charles Liu.
    According to the posted document, Qi Chonghuai the rapist is from the village of Beiqi in Xiangcheng, Zouxian, Shandong. At age 21, with only a primary school education, he was sentenced to nine years in prison.
    Is that the same person as Qi Chonghuai the reporter/forum poster, who was born in Shenyang, Liaoning Province in 1965 (same year), is college educated, got married in 1995, and moved to Shandong in 1996?

    Wow.

  3. @jdmartinsen

    Martinsen, it appears you are the dispicable one:

    1) Unlike NYT, I vetted Chinese netter’s 1986 rape claim. When I sent my research to HRIC and China Urgent Acting Working Group (NYT’s primary sources) for response, CUAWG resplied that they are aware of Qi’s “sexual misconduct” (notice they white washed the charge?) I’ll FW you a copy of the email.

    2) Even Qi’s lawyer, Liu Xiaoyuan, stated Qi is from Shangdong (齐崇怀,曾用名齐崇淮,山东省邹城市人)

    Qi’s cohorts in the negative online rumor extortion racket may be from Liaoning, but I guess you knew that already.

    @Charles Custer
    Can I get “Wow” too?

  4. I wouldn’t count on it, as Custer only “wow” people who furthers his own prejudiced and biased agenda…:)

  5. Seems Andrew Jacob’s claim Qi wrote for state-run media is based on Falun Gong’s BS reporting:

    http://www.epochtimes.com/b5/7/5/28/n1724306.htm

    Mainland China central media “China Legal News” Shandong bureau chief, veteran reporter Qi Chonghuai
    大陸中央媒體《法制早報》駐山東記者站負責人,資深記者齊崇淮

    The website/blog is cited in 4), people can see for themselves.

  6. Thanks for doing that legwork, Charles Liu, and I apologize for wording my comment so strongly. I was reacting to the “netters have confirmed” language, when from all the posts I’ve been able to find on the subject, netters have merely posted a document without actually confirming anything. In retrospect I ought to have contacted one of the involved parties directly, like you did, rather than relying on online sources of dubious veracity.

  7. Charlies Liu,

    If you don’t mind, maybe you should post their response for all of us to see.

  8. @pug_ster

    Here you go:

    Date: Tue, 02 Aug 2011 10:01:27 +0800
    To: “Charles Liu”
    Subject: Re: Qi Chonghuai
    From: china.action@hushmail.com
    Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
    Content-Type: text/plain; charset=”UTF-8″
    Message-Id:
    Return-Path: china.action@hushmail.com
    X-OriginalArrivalTime: 02 Aug 2011 02:01:28.0381 (UTC) FILETIME=[17682ED0:01CC50B8]

    Dear Mr Liu,

    We are well aware of Mr Qi’s prior conviction on charges of sexual
    conduct with a minor. However, in accordance with basic ideas of
    human rights, that is of little relevance these days, as he served
    his punishment for that crime, and should now thus be considered
    only for the actions which led to (politically motivated)
    conviction on the current charges.

    Yours,

    the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group

  9. Thanks Charles for doing this. I know it takes work and perseverance.

    Some have questioned whether we represent the Chinese perspective. The truth is the typical Chinese don’t care about media bias in the West, or Western prejudice. China is big and confident enough – the typical Chinese would probably just snicker.

    The typical Westerner – without sufficient information about China or otherwise blinded by their own ideologies – don’t care…

    But systemic bias about another civilization is dangerous – especially when biased negatively – framed in the context of good vs. evil.

    So it turns on overseas Chinese – together with a handful of conscientious Westerners – to mend the situation.

    Thanks Charles again for this and all the other work you have done.

  10. I did some digging myself after seeing comments left by the first two posters. From my reading of Chinese forums and blog sites, it seems pretty clear that Chinese netizens don’t trust Qi. And I wouldn’t blame them considering he pretty much duped them and tried to use the community as a weapon against the Chinese govt. While I can’t verify what he may or may not have done 20 years ago (if its the same person), what he did _recently_ does not give me the impression of a ‘rightious crusader’, he seems more like a cheat or opportunist.

  11. @Allen
    Interesting digging done here. But the point HRIC makes is basically correct. The fact that you have a prior conviction does not deprive you of the right of a fair trial for other alleged crimes. That’s the way any modern criminal justice system is supposed to work.

  12. NYT is not alleging deprivation of right to fair trial. It’s alleging “double jeopardy”, concocted to silence the person.

    NOT the same thing.

  13. @Hemulen #13,

    Good to see you back after such a long time…

    Our point is not so much that we want Qi to be punished forever for something he’s already been convicted for and served sentence for.

    Our point is that Western press seems to have knack for finding the conscience of China in the fringe of Chinese society – in fact, in what a typical Chinese would consider to be the garbage of society. Qi is one example. Ai weiwei is another.

    In California, we have a law that requires sex offenders to be registered on a database openly accessible to the public even long after they have served their sentence. The point is not to punish them of life, deprive them of a fair trial for other crimes, etc. When you are a drag on a society, you are a drag – even after you served your sentence. (I know in Germany, they may have other ideas, placing the notion of human dignity above all. But these are things each society have a right to decide).

    Some studies have shown that almost inevitably, in any society, a small fringe of society gets to set the social norm and agenda (Ray can you send the link again, I lost it…). But must China’s conscience always be found in the lower dreg, despicable fringe of society?

  14. @Allen

    Exactely, raping a 10 year old girl speaks to Qi’s character. I had some reservation about mentioning this, but after recalling NYT was okay with an unproven sex crime against Wikileaks founder, it was no longer an issue.

    Also allegation of politically motivated conviction doesn’t seem to hold water. Even his defense lawyer admits he hintted/negotiated hundreds of thousands RMB “journalist per-diem” from people he mentioned/threatened with unfavorable online expose.

    “Fake Journalist” is a booming cottage industry in China:

    http://www.baidu.com/s?wd=%BC%D9%BC%C7%D5%DF

  15. Alright, That’s IT!

    We need a “flesh hunting” site to track down these fake journalists and rumor spreaders.

    The price for “speech” is responsibility for the speech.

  16. Charles Liu :
    @jdmartinsen
    Martinsen, it appears you are the dispicable one:
    1) Unlike NYT, I vetted Chinese netter’s 1986 rape claim. When I sent my research to HRIC and China Urgent Acting Working Group (NYT’s primary sources) for response, CUAWG resplied that they are aware of Qi’s “sexual misconduct” (notice they white washed the charge?) I’ll FW you a copy of the email.
    2) Even Qi’s lawyer, Liu Xiaoyuan, stated Qi is from Shangdong (齐崇怀,曾用名齐崇淮,山东省邹城市人)
    Qi’s cohorts in the negative online rumor extortion racket may be from Liaoning, but I guess you knew that already.
    @Charles Custer
    Can I get “Wow” too?

    If you send me the email, sure.

  17. Allen :
    @Charles Liu #3 ,

    Can I get “Wow” too?

    C. Custer’s silence deserves the real Wow here.

    Oh hey, now it works. Right after I sent Allen an email about it. A coincidence, I’m sure. Anyway, the reason for my silence is your website’s stupid CAPTCHA system, which hasn’t let me post a single comment for the past few days.

    That said, it appears you’re quite right here Chas. My apologies. However I agree with whoever said that it isn’t really relevant to the current case.

    And I disagree with the implications, which are RIFE in this thread, that a few scumbags who are also dissidents means all scumbags are dissidents. That’s a logical fallacy; if it were fair to make that conclusion then you would also have to conclude that all government officials in China were scumbags, since plenty of them are rapists, or worse (see Deng Yujiao case, or any number of others).

    (That Ai Weiwei link is ridiculous, by the way).

  18. @Charles Liu
    Excellent work! This is truly one of the better journalist efforts.

    @C. Custer
    Greetings. Enjoyed your writings at China/Divide. Too bad it was discontinued.

    I think when you said “a few scumbags who are also dissidents means all scumbags are dissidents”, you meant “a few purported dissidents who happen to be simply scumbags in reality means all dissidents are scumbags”. In the strict sense, you are correct in pointing out the logic fallacy. On the other hand, it’s understandable if some find it difficult to place faith in the promotions lead by ‘responsible’ media reporting after a few of such episodes.

    I don’t know how to feel about Ai Weiwei. He is not another Wei Jingsheng at this point. But I really don’t know if he wouldn’t become one given sufficient amount of time.

  19. “a few scumbags who are also dissidents means all scumbags are dissidents”.

    No, but it does mean that some in media were too eager to promote scumbags into “dissidents”. Seriously, who does the research in media these days? No one apparently.

    Well, until the media learns to do proper research, I assume they are hiding something for the “scumbags”.

  20. @C. Custer

    I agree not all dissidents are scumbags (I think that’s what you meant).

    But it seems all these reports of dissidents by NYT are very biased. Never once did they mention Liu Xiaobo was on the take from US government via the NED, a clear violation of foreign sponsorship of domestic politics that is universally outlawed (ref FARA). I for one have found NYT’s other China stories to be questionable (Lanxiang Vocational military hacker, Aurora malware “China Code”, to name a few.)

    Anyway, glad to see you agree this guy isn’t the anit-corruption crusader NYT has painted him to be. And the day China Geeks (or PKD) say a fair word about Andrew Jacobs is the day I stop boycotting your blog (or Richard’s).

  21. To clarify some points Mr Liu and others gotten wrong,

    (a) Qi was convicted in a case of double jeopardy, the fact that some new points were added the bill of prosecution does not negate this fact (the issues pertaining to ‘fraud’ is new for example) (note, bill of prosecution is what the Procuratorate forwards to the Court as formal charge document).

    (b) Qi’s lawyers have not said that it is not a case of double jeopardy, but actually the opposite, which was said by Wang Quanzhang to AP amongst others, while Liu Xiaoyun, through, amongst other ways, his blog, have focused on the new charge and not the aspect of double jeopardy.

    (c) Qi’s prior ‘rap-sheet’ is quite irrelevant.

    (d) re: politically motivated charge. If a reporter exposes corruption in Chicago, and Chicago local police goes to this reporters hometown of New York and detains him and brings him to Chicago, would you start to suspect something? If weekly beatings and worse occurs, would you? after 2 attempts on his life? after police and government officials like tell him they will not allow him out after serving his sentence, would you? after being moved away from the Chicago prison to a L.A. prison, all the beatings and maltreatment ends – would you then suspect maybe something is going on? if at almost every single step of the way Police, Procuratorate, People’s Court AND Intermediate Court have violated domestic Chinese laws and procedural regulations, would you?

  22. I see you do not disput Qi did rape a 10 year old girl. I disagree with you that this is irrelevant, as it speaks to Qi’s character. I see you also do not dispute the fact Qi was not a journalist, and he only operated a blog/website (non-print private website is very different than “state media” Jacobs claimed.)

    As to what Liu Xiaoyun said, I cited in 2). They argued it’s a prior charge and court decided it is not. Liu did not dispute the fact Mr. Zhang from the starch factory came forward in March 2011, only that the case has exceeded statute of limitation, which the court again decided it is not (5 years for a criminal charge is quite reasonable IMHO.)

    BTW, Falun Gong sucks.

  23. If it is true, as it certainly appears to be from the information that you present, that Qi raped a 10-year-old girl, then he should not be presented in any sort of role as a moral leader, such as a righteous dissident. The NYT should do more to fact check its own stories. Granted, China is a difficult environment for reporters, with loads of obstruction by the government. However, a surprise like this should not be encountered by a leading paper like the NYT.

  24. “(a) Qi was convicted in a case of double jeopardy, the fact that some new points were added the bill of prosecution does not negate this fact (the issues pertaining to ‘fraud’ is new for example) (note, bill of prosecution is what the Procuratorate forwards to the Court as formal charge document).”

    The fact that some new points were added to the bill of prosecution DOES NEGATE double jeopardy, (if you want to use the Common Law definition)

    In UK, for example, a defendant who had been convicted of an offence could be given a second trial for an aggravated form of that offence if the facts constituting the aggravation were discovered after the first conviction.

    In Qi’s case, FRAUD is in fact a completely different criminal charge than the actual RAPE.

  25. Charles Liu, a superb analysis of the NYT article. Linked (with some minor edits).

    Did anybody else notice how C. Custer, while backpedaling in his later comments, indulges in at least one straw man argument [scumbags / dissidents] which misleads from the article’s basis — the exposure of the NYT’s journalistic fraud?

  26. “(c) Qi’s prior ‘rap-sheet’ is quite irrelevant.”

    COMPLETELY relevant toward Defendant’s own credibility and sentencing and severity of punishment.

    Even in US, where prior criminal convictions are generally not allowed as evidence in trial, “prior criminal conduct” of defendant is admissible in court for the purpose of impeaching defendant’s own testimony, calling into question defendant’s credibility and honesty, and as direct evidence of related criminal conduct in related events.

    And US also has 3 strikes laws, which increases punishment of a pending charge in consideration of past criminal conduct.

    Why would Qi’s prior rap sheet be irrelevant?? (When even US courts would consider such evidence)?

  27. Looks Jacobs relied on bad second-hand sources (read the original HRIC press release, it’s very poorly worded) and did not bother to speak with Qi’s lawyer to get the proper information. Typical.

  28. Oi-lin :
    Looks Jacobs relied on bad second-hand sources (read the original HRIC press release, it’s very poorly worded) and did not bother to speak with Qi’s lawyer to get the proper information. Typical.

    Just curious here: if Qi’s lawyer spoke to a NYT journalist and was quoted in the times, would he get into any kind of trouble for it in China?

  29. @Common Tater #32

    Even if I take your insinuation that the answer is yes (do you have an example of someone’s lawyer speaking to the Western press getting in trouble because of the lawyer talking to the Western press?) – that does not excuse shoddy journalism.

    As I’ve noted in another exchange with FOARP some time ago, making up a story because of your inability to get the story is shoddy journalism. Period.

  30. “if Qi’s lawyer spoke to a NYT journalist and was quoted in the times, would he get into any kind of trouble for it in China?”

    As a point of legal issue, IN US, a lawyer who speaks to the media for an ongoing case may be in violation of code of professional ethics (as conduct to influence public opinion for an ongoing case and cause bias), and may be disbarred.

    Attorneys in US (and in many Western nations) have to be extremely careful when making public statements about ongoing cases.

    SO, YES! HE MIGHT GET IN TROUBLE for pulling the same kind of stunt in China!!

  31. @Common Tater

    Tater, Qi’s lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan has been quoted by AFP, and appearantly he’s not in trouble. Google this passage:

    “He can appeal, but there is little hope off success,” the journalist’s lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan told AFP by telephone.”

    Everything I’ve found is based on publically verifaible information found on search engines. There’s no reason for Andrew Jacobs to make so much mistakes, other than his demonstrated political bias towards the Chinese government.

    Please see the Baidu search cited in comment 3. Qi’s lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan has been all over the forums publicly espousing his client’s innocence, seemingly not based on validity of the accusation, but procedure and technicality, such as court’s admission of evidence and statute of limitation.

  32. I think that it wasn’t so much Jacobs’ bias so much as his *laziness*, honestly. (Jacobs is the better of the NYT crew. Sharon LaWhoCares is the worst.) One would almost think that an intern wrote it and he just gave it a light edit and an OK.

    And Liu Xiaoyuan is a lawyer: Lawyers always argue on procedure and technicality. These are very straightforward things to argue as they are supported by the facts as written in the law. Arguing case details — especially when cases are based on testimonies and not readily accessible avidence (as is the case for Qi) — is much more difficult because of the potentially subjective nature of them.

  33. Most cases do come down to credibility and personal characters of witnesses and parties.

    It’s call the art of persuasion in legal profession.

    Difficult it may be to argue such things, but lawyers get paid to do that.

    Of course it is “subjective”, the legal system is premised on the theory of subjective finding of truth AFTER the fact, with imperfect hindsight. It’s never “objective” by any standards, but attempts to get close to “objectivity” with available subjective knowledge and arguments.

  34. Yeah, Andrew Jacobs seems to be developing quite a reputation for wrong and downright fraudulent journalism.

    Let’s see what blunders he comes up with next. I’m officially calling it it the “Andrew Jacobs Watch”.

  35. According to the lawyers who defended Qi in his 2007 trial, the witness statements were all read (no witnesses took the stand) and there was never any cross-interrogation by the defence of witnesses. I forget with Qi whether this was the case, but it is not uncommon for judges to not allow the defence to give their statement at the trial, or even allow the defendant to give his statement. In these cases, how can a lawyer even perform their “art of persuasion”, raventhorn2? One must wonder f you follow the Chinese legal system at all.

  36. @Oi-lin #40

    I forget with Qi whether this was the case, but it is not uncommon for judges to not allow the defence to give their statement at the trial, or even allow the defendant to give his statement. In these cases, how can a lawyer even perform their “art of persuasion”, raventhorn2? One must wonder f you follow the Chinese legal system at all.

    As an American-trained laywer, I can say for certain that the art of persuasion is not limited to the oral arguments. In fact, even in the U.S. system, oral arguments do not as much as people think. It’s a tradition, but it does not go to the substance of a fair trial (in fact, if justice depends on oral theatrics, one might argue that there is something inherently unfair about the system).

    The art of persuasion in the legal profession – in China, as well as in the U.S. – is based on the pen. You have to write a good brief, tell a good story, backed up with good evidence, all submitted in written form that judges can critically read and check (against facts and law).

  37. Oi-lin,

    If you want to cite specifics of Chinese legal system practices, I can then respond.

    Generally, even in US, Defense statements are subject to judge’s determination of whether the statements would create prejudice in Jury. If any statements are deemed to contain matters that create jury prejudice (such as raising slander against a witness), or introduces evidence already deemed inadmissible, then such statements could be struck out, and the attorney may be subject to court discipline, not limited to contempt charges.

    Defendant’s own personal statements are generally not allowed in court, unless the Defendant is deemed competent to defend his own case without attorney present. (Extremely rare.)

    Cross examination of witness in US is subject to rules of cross-examination. All cross-examination are to be phrased in the YES/NO type questions, No narrative or leading questions are allowed. Defendant may not present NEW evidence during cross-examination, except to cast doubt directly to a witness’s credibility.

    If a Defendant has other evidence that contradicts a witness’s version of events, Defendant can ONLY present such evidence as DIRECT evidence, NOT during cross-examination.

    (That’s the short version of trial procedure in US).

    Now, let us know what specifics were “judges not allowing the defence to give their statement at the trial, or even allow the defendant to give his statement”.

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