The employees of the website of 21st Century Media Co., based in Shanghai, police said, collaborated since November 2013 to extort money from businesses in exchange for favorable reviews and news stories. They include the editor-in-chief and his deputy, reporters, marketing department employees and the heads of two public relations firms. The website is part of a media corporation whose most prominent property is the 21st Century Business Herald, a respected business newspaper, with a circulation of about 700,000.
The list of victims includes businesses in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangdong intending to sell stock or restructure. The police offered no examples of the size of payments, referring only to "huge personal profits" made in the alleged scheme, the Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua said.
The detentions are part of a crackdown by Chinese authorities on extortion in the media. They have discovered numerous examples of press credentials given to those not in journalism, and newspaper websites routinely involved with advertising and public relations agencies.