Beijing police said Thursday they have detained eight people who posed as journalists, allegedly blackmailing interviewees and selling 74 fake press cards.
Police raided the office of a website named "China Legal Watch" in early November, weeks after an investigation into reports that staff of the site had been selling fake press cards, said Wang Qizhen, an officer of the Beijing Public Security Bureau.
Police apprehended an individual they said was the ringleader, Ge You, who was selling fake press cards. They also apprehended five accomplices. They then went to Luoyang in central China's Henan Province to arrest two other suspects.
The eight are in custody on charges of fraud and forging official documents.
An investigation showed the group registered the website in May. The gang members, claiming to be journalists, blackmailed enterprises and local government bodies following cases of medical malpractice and industrial accidents.
The fake journalists carried their own fraudulent press cards, police said. Other cards were sold for 5,000 yuan (730 U.S. dollars) to 15,000 yuan.
Wang said the investigation was proceeding.
Wang did not disclose how many people or how much money in all was involved in the case.
There have been many cases of unaccredited journalists in China. For example, last January, Lan Chengzhang, an employee of the Shanxi office of the Beijing-based China Trade News, was beaten to death during an investigation of an unlicensed coal mine in the northern province, by eight thugs hired by the mine owner.
Lan and a colleague, who were apparently not fully-fledged journalists, were allegedly trying to extort money from the owner of the illegal mine.
Late last month, the General Administration of Press and Publication said there was evidence that 58 people were involved in taking bribes from a coal mine in the northern province of Shanxi to cover up the death of a miner.
Twenty-eight of the 58 were simply posing as reporters, 26 were staff related to local news organizations and only four were professional reporters.
(Xinhua News Agency December 11, 2008)