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Hong Kong broadcaster fined for Jiang Zemin death story

By Paul Armstrong, CNN
December 6, 2011 -- Updated 0835 GMT (1635 HKT)
Jiang Zemin, right, sits with President Hu Jintao during a ceremony to mark China's 1911 revolution in October.
Jiang Zemin, right, sits with President Hu Jintao during a ceremony to mark China's 1911 revolution in October.
  • An Asia Television report suggested former Chinese President Jiang Zemin had died
  • ATV fined almost $39,000 for the inaccurate report and its "irresponsible approach" to the inquiry
  • Rumors of Ziang's demise began when he failed to attend Chinese Communist Party celebrations

Hong Kong (CNN) -- A television station in Hong Kong has been fined for airing a report in July that suggested former Chinese President Jiang Zemin had died, regulators said Tuesday.

Asia Television Limited (ATV) was fined almost $39,000 for the inaccurate report and its "irresponsible approach" to the subsequent inquiry, the Hong Kong Broadcasting Authority said in its report on the incident.

Rumors of Jiang's demise began when he failed to attend the 90th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party. Speculation intensified on Chinese micro-blogging networks, prompting state media to publicly dismiss the reports as "pure rumor."

But ATV continued to report the rumor in several bulletins on July 6 before it finally retracted the story later in the day.

Death rumors spur reflections on Jiang legacy

According to a report in the South China Morning Post, ATV senior vice-president Kwong Hoi-ying repeatedly pressed the station's news department to run the report, telling them he had received reliable information about Jiang's death.

It said the news desk tried unsuccessfully to verify the information and asked for more time, but Kwong insisted they broadcast the report, saying he and ATV would shoulder the responsibility.

"Having considered the information collected at the interviews and all other available evidence and submissions, the BA has found the complaints against inaccurate news reporting and late correction of factual errors substantiated," the Broadcasting Authority said in the report.

"The BA regrets that ATV has adopted an irresponsible approach in its response to BA's inquiry. The BA has decided that a financial penalty of HK$300,000 should be imposed on ATV."

The broadcaster accepted the decision.

"ATV accepts the Broadcasting Authority's ruling, but reserves agreement on some of the points outlined by the Authority," the station said in a statement received by CNN Tuesday.

"ATV will learn from this incident and continue to uphold journalistic standards going forward."

During his 13 years as general secretary of the Communist Party and nearly 10 years as president, Jiang mixed economic freedom and political control to move forward the so-called "market socialism" introduced by his predecessor Deng Xiaoping.

Under his leadership, China began to emerge as the world's fastest growing major economy.

Jiang also saw the peaceful handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China and that of Macau from Portugal, while repeatedly threatening to use military power against Taiwan if it declared independence.

CNN's Nini Suet contributed to this report.

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