Chai Huiqun during a reporting assignment in an undated photo.
(Photo courtesy of Chai Huiqun)
A journalist for a cutting-edge newspaper is waging a long-running battle taking on the power of a ruling Chinese Communist Party-controlled journalists’ association and the country’s medical profession.
Chai Huiqun, a journalist for the Guangzhou-based Southern Weekend newspaper, is in the process of suing the Chinese Medical Doctors’ Association (CMDA) following complaints about his reporting to the party-controlled All-China Journalists Association (ACJA).
According to Chai’s personal blog, he is bringing the case because he was named in a CDMA complaint targeting three media outlets who had allegedly published “false reporting” about the country’s healthcare services.
“I am suing the ACJA to protect my personal rights,” Chai wrote in a recent blog post.
“As a journalist, my reputation has a direct bearing on my right to pursue an occupation, and their public credibility is at the root of a journalist’s livelihood,” he wrote.
“If my reputation is damaged, then my public credibility will be weakened,” Chai said.
Chai is taking issue with ACJA’s naming of him in its response to the CDMA’s complaint.
He is also seeking 20,000 yuan (U.S.$3,224) in damages from the CDMA, and requiring the defendants to delete all online articles posted in April 2014, which accuse him of false reporting, the Global Times newspaper, which has close ties to the Communist Party, reported.
Chai is also demanding an open apology for the articles, which accuse him of “fabricating information on medical incidents.”
Some of the articles were published under the name of Wang Zhian, a CCTV reporter, the paper said.
The lawsuit against the CDMA has now been heard twice at the Dongcheng District People’s Court in Beijing, most recently on June 10.
But Chai’s attorney Yang Zhiwei said the defense had faked evidence linked to the journalist’s story about alleged corruption linked to equipment contracts at a hospital in the southwestern province of Sichuan, at the heart of the region hit by the 2008 earthquake.
“The CDMA presented a registration certificate for some ultrasonic diagnostic apparatus that was forged,” Yang told RFA. “It was fake, because it pertained to a newer model,” he said.
“I think that this means that there could be some criminality going on,” the lawyer said.
Yang said Chai’s story about substituted equipment at the Mianyang Hospital was properly researched, with plenty of evidence.
“We can fully prove that the equipment used by the Mianyang Hospital, as Chai Huiqun wrote in his report at the time … was faked to make it look new,” he said.
Chai had also exposed genuine problems with three apparently separate tendering process at the hospital, he said.
“In fact, it was the same person, the same boss, behind all three contracts, which means that the tendering process was fixed,” Yang said.
Yang said the amounts of money to be made from substituting older medical equipment for more recent equipment were huge.