China jails 4 for blackmail, posing as reporters

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BEIJING, Oct 31 (Reuters) A Chinese court has jailed four men who, posing as journalists, tried to blackmail a local official by threatening to write ''fake'' stories, state media reported today.

Pretending to be magazine reporters, the four demanded 100,000 yuan (13,500 dollar) from an official on the island of Hainan, the ruling Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily said.

It said the men had claimed to have incriminating information about local government abuse of power in land usage.

''They thought the government had illegally sold farm land for business purposes when they saw some of the land was being filled with garbage, and they attempted to use this as an excuse to extort money from the government,'' the newspaper said. ''But their story was not backed up by investigation.'' The newspaper said the magazine for which they had claimed to work had been banned by the Chinese government in 2005.

Lin Minghao, described as a leader of the group, was given an eight-year jail sentence. The other three were were given sentences between three and five years, the newspaper said.

Scams involving people posing as journalists are common in China, where official media are treated as an arm of government and journalists can use their influence to generate or silence stories.

In May, a man was sentenced to life in prison for posing as an editor for the People's Daily and promising to do people favours in exchange for bribes totalling about half a million US dollars.


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