Fan Youfeng is a reporter for the Henan Business Journal. While at city hall, covering a story on a recent mining accident that occurred in the city of Ruzhou City, Henan Province, Fan witnessed the following exchange between Director Yang and some journalists:
Yang: I’ve already given all the money to those who came before you.
Reporter: Look, we came all the way here, and the driving expenses alone were substantial.
Yang: I’m true to my word, I won’t let you leave empty handed. 100 yuan for each of you!
Reporter: Are you trying to insult us? Just standing here is worth 100 yuan..
Yang: Well, I have to take care of you, how about 300 yuan each?
After the group of reporters had left, Yang turned to Fan and complained that he had been paying out bribes all day. Over 480 journalists had come to cover the story and he had needed to pay out over 200,000 yuan in bribes to keep them from reporting. The City Hall parking lot was crowded with news media vehicles, and the halls were swamped with journalists eager for payouts. Each journalist was given a sum in accordance with the rank and importance of his or her media group. Those at the state level received 500-1,000 yuan each, while those at the provincial level 200-500, on down. Fan also saw a copy of a 20-page document entitled: “List of Red Envelop Distribution.” It contained the signatures of reporters from over 100 media from all over China.
Fan received 1,000 yuan for his share, which he promptly handed over to his newspaper office. He overheard members of his paper’s public relations department commenting on the government’s disgraceful behavior in the matter. Everyone was quite upset to learn of it.
When a second accident occurred just a few days later, reporters came by the hordes to receive the “hush money.” Many who came were not reporters at all, but people who had heard about the easy money. The representatives of the mining company asked that after receiving the money they should not contact them about the accidents or try to pursue the story.
Fan exposed these underhanded goings-on in the Henan Business Journal, refusing to be bought while lesser men were counting their extra cash. It caused a public outcry, and the whole thing became known as the “Red Envelope Scandal.” Though Fan initially received praise from his peers, his own paper confiscated his audio recordings and he was later told to stop reporting on the matter. Several people have since resigned from the Henan Business Journal, and Fan will probably be forced to leave the province altogether.