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Chinese journalist who probed cooking oil scandal is killed

New York, September 20, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Saturday's fatal stabbing of a TV journalist and calls on Chinese authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into possible journalism-related motives.

Unidentified assailants stabbed Luoyang TV reporter Li Xiang, 30, at least 10 times on Sunday night in central Henan province, local and international news reports said. Police said the journalist died early Monday morning, Agence France-Presse reported. His laptop was missing from its case at the scene, and police suspected robbery as a possible motive, news reports said.  

Li had reported on the illegal recycling of waste oil into cooking oil and also wrote about it on his microblog, news reports said. Police in Henan and two other provinces had recovered 100 tons of the carcinogenic oil, called "gutter oil" because of its origins, and arrested 32 people for selling it, AFP reported. Local news reports and bloggers said that Li's death may have been connected to that investigation.

"Authorities in Henan must fairly and openly investigate Li Xiang's violent death and bring the perpetrators to justice," said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator. "Given China's history of obstructing coverage of food scandals, authorities must thoroughly consider his reporting as a possible motive."

Food safety scandals are common in China, and journalists reporting on them frequently encounter harassment, CPJ research shows. But journalist murders occur less often. CPJ has been unable to confirm the motive in the 2010 killing of Sun Hongjie, in Xinjiang, or the 2007 death of Lan Chengzhang, in Shanxi province. 

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