Chinese Firms Deny Funding Indian News Portal for Propaganda

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, a journalist whose house was raided by the police, speaks to the members of the media at a protest organised at Press Club after the Indian police raided the New Delhi office of a news portal and the homes of journalists and writers linked to it on Tuesday, in New Delhi, India, October 4, 2023. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis

The police in India have formally accused Chinese smartphone makers Xiaomi Corp and Vivo Mobile of helping transfer funds illegally to a news portal under investigation on charges of spreading Chinese propaganda, documents showed last Friday (6).

A Xiaomi India spokesperson strongly denied the accusation. A spokesperson from Vivo did not respond immediately to repeated requests for comment, while NewsClick said the allegations were “untenable and bogus”.

Media rights and opposition groups in India have said the investigation into NewsClick and surrounding accusations are part of a crackdown on the press – a charge dismissed by the government.

The allegations were laid out in a police complaint that was filed on August 17.

It was shared with lawyers for people named in the complaint last Friday, days after officers raided NewsClick’s New Delhi office and journalists’ homes, then arrested its founder-editor Prabir Purkayastha and a senior administrative official.

The complaint, a copy of which has been seen by Reuters, accused Purkayastha of conspiring with a little-known voluntary group to disrupt India’s sovereignty and cause disaffection.

The document said, as part of this plan, large amounts of funds were received from China to push biased news criticising Indian policies and projects and defending Chinese policies and programmes.

“It is further learnt that big Chinese telecom companies like Xiaomi, Vivo, incorporated thousands of shell companies in India in violation,” of India’s foreign currency laws “for illegally infusing foreign funds in India in furtherance of this conspiracy,” the complaint said.

A senior police officer confirmed the document was genuine and that it made allegations about those two companies.

“We have no knowledge about this. We strongly deny the said allegation against Xiaomi in the FIR,” the spokesperson for Xiaomi India said, referring to the First Information Report, as a police complaint is formally called in India.

“Xiaomi conducts its business operations with utmost respect to, and in strict compliance of applicable laws. Any allegation of conspiracy is completely baseless,” they added.

Xiaomi and Vivo are among India’s biggest phone brands.

The police document did not go into further detail about how the information had been learned, set out any proof of the companies’ involvement or say what steps the police were now considering.

NewsClick said last week it does not publish any news or information at the behest of any Chinese entity or authority. Its lawyers have challenged the complaint in the Delhi high court.

“The completely absurd nature of allegations in the FIR clearly show the proceedings initiated against NewsClick are nothing but a blatant attempt to muzzle the free and independent press in India,” NewsClick said in a statement last Friday.

“NewsClick has full faith in the judicial system of India and is confident that its stand will be vindicated.”

China has dismissed accusations of interference in India in the past.

Source: Eastern Eye