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Prosecutors Consider Charges in Journalist's Death
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Prosecutors are considering charges against seven men in connection with the killing of a newspaper reporter in north China's Shanxi Province in January.

A Datong City Public Security Bureau spokesman said the Public Security Bureau of Hunyuan County has completed an investigation into the death of Lan Chengzhang, an employee of the Beijing-based China Trade News.

The case was passed to the Hunyuan County People's Procuratorate, which was considering an indictment against seven people in connection with the fatal beating of Lan, who was allegedly trying to extort money from the owner of an illegal coalmine.

A Hunyuan police source said that around midday on January 10, Hou Zhenrun, owner of Hunyuan Coal Mine, was having lunch in Datong with two men identified as Kang Quanming and Wu Qiang, when he received a phone call from mine staff telling him of two journalists wanting an immediate meeting.

Hou allegedly asked Wu for help and Wu phoned a friend known as Zheng Wenping to ask him to find people to help the coalmine boss settle "a problem." Zheng allegedly gathered three accomplices -- Ma Li, Li Zhihong and Gao Bo -- and the seven men traveled to the mine in two vehicles.

On meeting the two reporters, later identified as Lan Chengzhang and Chang Hanwen, both of the Shanxi office of China Trade News, Hou allegedly checked their identity documents, but found they lacked the certification seal of the State Press and Publication Administration.

Police claim Hou concluded the two were bogus reporters and ordered an assault, and the attackers fled after Lan fell to the ground unconscious.

Chang and Lan were taken to the Datong No. 5 People's Hospital, about 60 kilometers southeast of Datong.

Lan died of an apparent brain hemorrhage the next morning.

Chang suffered a broken right arm and other minor injuries. He was heard to have said he and Lan intended to extort money from the illegal mine boss by pretending to be conducting a newspaper investigation.

Li Wenxian, Lan's brother-in-law, reported the case to police immediately after Lan's death.

The police detained Zheng Wenping and Ma Li on January18. Hou Zhenrun, Wu Qiang, Li Zhihong and Gao Bo surrendered to the police a few days later.

The police are still searching for Kang Quanming, the mine boss's driver.

(Xinhua News Agency March 21, 2007)

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