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August 25, 2009

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Innocent man in photo infamy

TAO Jianguo, Party secretary of a village in Shanghai's Pudong New Area, couldn't be blamed for thinking he's landed in the middle of a Franz Kafka tale about a bureaucrat who's shamed for something he didn't do and can't get anyone to believe him.

For more than a week, acquaintances have been looking at him in disgust. Puzzled at first, he finally learned the answer: His photo had appeared with a news story about a Pudong official who was on trial for corruption. Both he and the official shared the same name, but some news Websites - and China Central Television - had used his picture instead of the other guy's.

Days later, his photo has been removed, but he's still trying to get CCTV and the other media to acknowledge they've made a mistake and apologize. If they remain unresponsive, Tao said he will sue.

Tao is Party secretary of Xinghuo Village, which was part of Nanhui District before the district was incorporated into the Pudong New Area. He also served as a representative to the district People's Congress, and his photo had been published on the Website of the congress, which he thinks is where the media found it.

On August 14, local reporters covered the trial of another Tao Jianguo, a former division chief in charge of construction planning approval for the Pudong New Area who allegedly accepted 14.85 million yuan (US$2.17 million) in bribes.

But CCTV and 10 popular Chinese Websites, such as Netease (, and, used the mug shot of the innocent Tao to accompany their stories, even though the two men bear no resemblance to each other.

The innocent Tao and his wife have a son and a daughter, and the family lives with Tao's mother. He has been the Party leader of the village, which has more than 3,000 residents, for nine years.

"My family and I are suffering a lot of mental pressure," the 42-year-old said. "People are pointing at us behind our backs."

He said he called CCTV to straighten out the mix-up, but a representative said someone would have to investigate before giving him a reply.

"Netease didn't reply to my e-mail," he said, referring to the Website he believes was the source of the mistake.

Netease official Sun Yan said yesterday that the Website was not aware of the problem. "We will look into the case and reply to him," Sun said.

CCTV could not be reached for comment.

Tao expects an apology and a statement that restores his reputation.

"I will be satisfied if the Websites and CCTV admit their mistake," Tao said.

"But if they do nothing, I will take legal action."


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