BEIJING – BEIJING (AP) — Police apologized to journalists at a hard-driving Chinese news magazine Tuesday after officers earlier tried to pressure them into revealing sources for an article about the detention of people seeking government redress over various grievances.
Top editors and managers at the respected Caijing magazine had refused to give in to demands issued Monday that were accompanied by threats of unspecified repercussions against the magazine for publishing the Sept. 13 article, said lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, who is a legal adviser to the publication.
Editors were told the piece "undermined stability and unity," Pu said.
On Tuesday, Caijing's deputy editor, Luo Changping, said unidentified officers had verbally apologized to Caijing employees and promised no journalist would be punished because of the story.
The police were also investigating the behavior of the officers from the Chaoyang district Internet monitoring department who issued the original threats, Luo said in a posting on his microblog.
Phones in the public relations and editorial departments at Caijing rang unanswered Tuesday. Beijing police did not respond to a faxed request for comment.
Caijing is a financial news magazine that has pushed boundaries with China's censors and chased stories that embarrassed the government.
The expose had described the lucrative business of illegally apprehending citizens who try to file complaints with the central government, focusing on Beijing-based Anyuanding Security and Prevention Technical Support Service, which reportedly earned 21 million yuan ($3.1 million) in revenue in 2008.
Caijing said Anyuanding made huge profits working on behalf of local and provincial governments, which want to stop citizens from their jurisdictions from filing complaints with the central government in Beijing.
Seen as troublemakers, these complainants known as petitioners are likely to embarrass local governments with their accusations, which generally involve cases of illegal land seizures and misconduct by authorities. They are frequently stopped by security agents who prevent them from ever reaching the petitions office.
Caijing said Anyuanding agents dressed in police-like uniforms grab petitioners off the streets of Beijing and other major cities. The company locks them up in illegal detention centers, charging local governments up to 300 yuan ($45) per petitioner per day, the report said. They are detained in the "black jails" until they can be escorted back by police from their hometowns.
"These companies trample on rule of law and human rights," the Caijing article said.
A man who answered the phone at Anyuanding said the company does not detain petitioners. When pressed further, he said he could not provide any details and would not elaborate. The company website said it provides security agents for government buildings, offices and residential communities.
Associated Press researcher Xi Yue contributed to this report.