BEIJING – A freelance reporter for a Beijing television station has been detained for faking a hidden camera report about street vendors who used chemical-soaked cardboard to fill meat buns, local media said.
The report came amid a spate of real food scares involving toxic fish, tainted pork and egg yolks colored with a cancer-causing dye that have harmed China's reputation as an exporter and alarmed people at home.
The story, allegedly shot with a hidden camera, was first broadcast on Beijing Television's Life Channel on June 8 and then shown again on China Central Television last week.
It created a buzz on the Internet, and people flooded chatrooms with comments expressing shock and disgust. On YouTube Web site, the video had been viewed more than 6,000 times by Thursday.
Beijing Television apologized to the public during an evening news broadcast Wednesday and said the creator of the fake news report, identified only by his surname, Zi, had been detained by police but did not say when. A copy of the broadcast was obtained by AP Television News on Thursday.
"He used deceptive means to get the footage on the air," said news anchor Wang Ye, without giving specifics. "The Beijing Public Security Bureau has taken the criminal suspect, Zi, into custody and he will be severely dealt with according to law."
Zi's footage appeared to show a makeshift kitchen where people made fluffy buns stuffed with 60 percent cardboard that had been softened in a bath of caustic soda and 40 percent fatty pork.
Beijing Television explained that an investigation revealed that in mid-June, Zi brought meat, flour, cardboard and other ingredients to a downtown Beijing neighborhood and had four migrant workers make the buns for him while he filmed the process. It said Zi "gave them the idea" of mincing softened cardboard and adding it to the buns.
The newscaster said the station was "profoundly sorry" for the fake report and its "vile impact on society." The station vowed to prevent inaccurate news coverage in the future.
The report prompted Beijing's health authorities to carry out a spot check of more than two dozen vendors selling the pork buns — a common breakfast in China. None was found to be using cardboard.