A financial journalist in China arrested over a report about authorities’ stock market intervention has apologised on national TV for causing “panic and fear” among investors.

Wang Xiaolu of Caijing magazine was seen asking for leniency on state broadcaster CCTV on Monday as he “confessed” to writing an “irresponsible” report about the government’s possible withdrawal of market saving funds last month.

china share market
Journalist Wang Xiaolu. Photo: CCTV 13

“I should not have published the report in such a sensitive time,” Wang said on the news programme. “It caused grave and negative impact on the market… [I] did it just to create a sensational effect and catch eyeballs. It cost the country and investors very big losses.”

Wang was taken away by police on August 25, a day after Shanghai Composite Index suffered the biggest one-day percentage fall in eight years. Also arrested were eight traders from CITIC Securities as well as a current employee and a former employee of CSRC, according to Xinhua news agency.

The report in question, entitled “CSRC studies proposals to withdraw stability-maintaining funds,” was published on July 20. In the article, Wang cited market sources as saying regulator China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) was considering three ways for brokerage firms, who contributed to billions of dollars in market saving funds last month, to get their money back.

“Affected by the report, abnormal fluctuations in the share markets emerged,” Xinhua said on Monday.

Caijing magazine has stood by Wang and vowed to protect reporters’ rights to perform their professional duties. “Our magazine will always support journalists’ in-depth, accurate and objective reports,” Caijing said in a statement on August 26.

Law enforcement officials have “taken criminal coercive measures” against Wang on charges of “fabricating and spreading false information about securities and futures tradings,” according to Xinhua.

Human Rights Watch has slammed Wang’s arrest and the way authorities handled the case.

“Wang’s case is a striking illustration of the government’s pervasive control over the media in China. In an area where transparency is very much needed… instead of letting information flow freely and ideas be debated publicly, the government takes actions against a journalist whose is doing his job to present his view on the market based on the information he gathers,” Maya Wang, an Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, told HKFP.

“This journalist is then paraded on state-controlled TV with a confession, even before any criminal proceedings against him has run its course, and pronounced guilty on state media. These TV confessions… have been used more frequently in the past two years, and subvert any notion of real ‘rule of law’ as promoted by President Xi Jinping.”

Chinese shares continued the downward trend on Monday following hefty falls last week. The Shanghai Composite Index lost 2.61 percent to 3,148.08 points in morning trading on Monday. The tech-heavy Shenzhen Composite Index fell 2.25 percent to 1,805.23.

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.