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7 more people penalized in fabricated story
Updated: 2007-07-20 19:12
At least seven more people have been fired or reprimanded over an allegedly fake television report about street vendors selling buns stuffed with chemically treated cardboard, state media reported Friday.
Reportedly shot with a hidden camera, the story briefly came to symbolize China's food safety woes that have alarmed people at home and hammered its reputation as a food and drug exporter.
Footage appeared to show a makeshift kitchen where people made fluffy buns stuffed a little bit of fatty pork and cardboard that had been softened in a bath of caustic soda.
The report prompted Beijing's health authorities to carry out a spot check of more than two dozen vendors selling the pork buns _ a common breakfast in China. None were found to be using cardboard.
The story was first broadcast on Beijing Television's Life Channel on July 8 and then shown again on China Central Television last week. It created a buzz on the Internet, with netizens flooding chatrooms with comments expressing shock and disgust. On the YouTube Web site, the video had been viewed more than 7,000 times by Friday.
The reporter who allegedly made the report, Zi Beijia, has already been detained by police and Beijing Television issued an apology late Wednesday saying the report was not true.
Zi allegedly offered to do a story about poor hygeine at meat bun stalls but failed to find any problems during two weeks of reporting. Facing pressure from his editor, he decided to fake the news, the state-run Xinhua News Agency said.
The official Xinhua News Agency and the Beijing Daily both reported Friday that the head of Beijing Television, Liu Aiqin, was publicly reprimanded and its editor-in-chief, Zhang Xiao, was given a warning.
One deputy editor-in-chief was given a demerit, Xinhua said, quoting sources the Beijing Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China.
The news reports said at least four other officials connected with the program that aired the report had been fired.
"The Communist Party committee at the station met and decided to start deep reforms and educational work using this case as a negative example," the Beijing Daily said.
An official with the general office of Beijing Television, who gave only his surname Li, said Friday that his office had nothing further to add to the Beijing Daily report.
Li referred questions to Zhang Songhua, the station's vice president, who did not return a call from the Associated Press.
Attempts to reach family members of Zi Beijia were not successful. Calls to the Beijing police department were not answered.
In its apology, a Beijing Television news anchor said Zi "used deceptive means to get the footage on the air." No specifics were provided.
Beijing Television explained that an investigation revealed that in mid-June, Zi brought meat, flour, cardboard and other ingredients to a downtown Beijing neighborhood and had four migrant workers make the buns for him while he filmed the process.
It said Zi "gave them the idea" of mincing softened cardboard and adding it to the buns.
Over to the usual suspects to explain this one