BEIJING, July 19 (Xinhua) -- A widely aired expose of
Beijing dumpling makers who used cardboard as a filling was a hoax and police
have arrested the reporter, Beijing Television station has said.
The station apologized in an evening news programme
on Wednesday for airing the fabricated report produced with a home DVD camera by
Zi Beijia, a temporary employee, on its Life Channel.
"We should apologize to the public for the Life
Channel's failure to strictly examine the content of the report, resulting in
the airing of a faked report which in turn undermined public confidence," said
the station announcement.
The All-China Journalists' Association has released a
statement which was aired by China Central Television Channel 1 (CCTV-1) on
Thursday evening, denouncing the report and calling on all Chinese media workers
to pursue genuine issues and preserve professional ethics.
"Authenticity is key to journalism and ensuring
authenticity of news reports is the basic professional ethic of journalists,"
said the statement, citing the banana virus rumour earlier this year, which
resulted in a drop in Hainan banana prices and caused losses of as much as 20
million yuan (2.6 million U.S. dollars) per day.
"This event rang an alarm in media circles ...
journalists should safeguard their social image and ... fulfill their mission
and responsibility endowed by the Communist Party and the people," said the
The investigative report about the so-called
problematic meat buns done by Zi was aired in a slot known as "Transparency" on
July 8, sparking a public outcry.
Mayor Wang Qishan ordered an immediate investigation,
and order those involved to be prosecuted if it were true.
Beijing Municipal Food Safety Office organized an
intensive inspection campaign from July 11 to 14 targeting breakfast stands in
the city's Chaoyang District, where the report was shot, and areas on the urban
Food safety inspectors collected more than 100
samples of meat bun fillings, but failed to spot paper fiber or other illegal
ingredients, said a spokesman from Beijing Municipal Food Safety Office.
The office organized a group of specialists on July
15 to assess the report and they suggested scientific food analysis.
Professor Chen Min, of the Food Science College of
China Agricultural University, organized a simulation of the recipe from the TV
report, and the specialists concluded it was impossible for the cardboard to go
"Even if you mix a tiny proportion, to say five
percent, of cardboard, the fiber substance can be easily seen, and the meat buns
made this way could not be easily chewed," said the spokesman from the Beijing
Municipal Food Safety Office.
Local police began an investigation after municipal
industrial, commercial and food safety officers questioned the credibility of
the news report.
Under interrogation, Zi, who joined Beijing TV as a
temporary worker with the Transparency column this year, allegedly admitted
fabricating the entire report, shot from June 15 to July 3.
Police said Zi admitted he put forward a suggestion
during an editorial meeting in early June to investigate the quality of meat
buns and the Transparency producer showed great enthusiasm.
"I focused my investigation on areas adjacent to the
Fourth Ring Road. For half a month after the editorial meeting, I visited many
stands selling baozi and usually spent one yuan on baozi at each stand," said
Zi, according to police.
But, he allegedly said, the pressure to produce a
story built up over time as he realized he could not find anything to report.
Pushed by the Transparency editor, Zi decided to take
risks. Under the name Hu Yue, Zi twice went to the No.13 courtyard inside
Shizikou Village, Taiyanggong Township of Chaoyang District, and asked four
migrant workers who had been preparing breakfast there to make meat buns for
other migrant workers at a construction site.
The four meat buns makers were identified as Wei
Quanfeng, Zhao Xiaoyan, Zhao Jiangbo and Yang Chunling, all from Huayin, a city
in northwest China's Shaanxi Province.
Zi allegedly invited a friend to act as the boss of
the construction site, and bought pork and flour from a market in Chaoyang
District and brought the materials to the courtyard.
In order to film the process, Zi is alleged to have
instructed Wei and his fellow villagers to make "baozi" or meat buns by soaking
and crushing discarded cardboard he had collected and mixing it with pork. The
baozi were said to have been fed to dogs.
Zi used a home DVD camera to film the entire process
and turned in his report after he edited it.
The so-called cardboard meat buns gained more
publicity after CCTV also broadcast Zi's report on July 11.
Police sources said they had detained five other
people, including the four migrant workers, to help with the investigation.
Beijingers, however, remained suspicious of food
quality on Thursday.
"I would never let my family buy breakfast from
street stalls again," said a Ms. Liu. "After all, health is paramount."
Liu Qinghui, a worker with a supermarket in downtown
Beijing, still doubted the quality of dumplings in street stalls.
"The price of pork is on the rise, but meat buns are
so cheap, usually 2.5 yuan (0.32 U.S. dollars) for ten," he said. "There must be
some something going on."
But stall owners were happy to see the alleged hoax
exposed. "The taste of paper and meat are as different as chalk and cheese,"
said a Mr. Zhang who ran a dumpling stall. "Everybody would notice