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August 26, 2009

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Website to offer apology over mistaken-identity photograph

NETEASE, one of China's biggest portal Websites, said yesterday that it was willing to apologize for misusing an innocent Shanghai man's photo and identifying him as an allegedly corrupt official of the same name.

In an initiative brokered by Shanghai Daily, the Website and the victim, Tao Jianguo, Party secretary of a village in Pudong New Area, got in contact with each other yesterday afternoon and are still involved in negotiations.

Tao expected an apology from the offending reporter and a statement that restored his reputation on the Website, he said.

"People responsible should be punished," Tao said yesterday. "I will consult my lawyer and find out a way."

While Netease is willing to apologize, it has not yet decided on the method.

"It's normal to apologize as we did it wrong," a director surnamed Tang said, denying the Website was the original source.

"We quoted the story from other Websites," Tang said.

Netease said the reporter in question would be punished for "carelessness."

"We are willing to offer a face-to-face apology to Mr Tao," said another official surnamed Li. "The details will be according to his demands."

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

However, Netease, as well as 10 other popular Websites, used the a picture of the innocent Tao to accompany their news reports.

The report was even screened on CCTV, which caused a great deal of embarrassment to the innocent Tao and his family members.


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