On Sunday, Reuters was first with the news that Chinese authorities have seized assets worth at least 90 billion yuan ($14.5 billion) from family members and associates of retired domestic security tsar Zhou Yongkang, who is at the centre of China’s biggest corruption scandal in more than six decades. The sheer size of the asset seizures and the scale of the investigations into the people around Zhou – both unreported until the Reuters exclusive – make the corruption probe unprecedented in modern China. In a Reuters Best: Journalist Spotlight Q&A, Benjamin Lim reveals the story behind how he and Ben Blanchard got the scoop.
Q. How did you get this exclusive?
A. A source with ties to the leadership tipped me off last week about the results of investigations into China’s biggest corruption scandal in more than six decades, with retired security tsar Zhou Yongkang at the centre. I put out feelers and a second source confirmed days later.
Q. What types of reporting/sourcing were involved?
A. There is a saying in China: be on guard against fire, burglars and reporters. Before official announcements, many things are considered secret, even including the date of birth of top leaders. Hence, I’m unable to elaborate on types of sources.
Q. What was the hardest part about reporting this story?
A. Finding a second source. Our scoop was delayed by a few days as a result. In China, foreign reporters can’t just pick up the phone and call sources. Meetings are usually one-on-one in person.
Q. What advantages does working at Reuters give you in working on a story like this?
A. Reuters is global, reaching clients in all continents. The China bureau chief and regional editors are supportive and trust reporters. Peers are great to work with. It’s teamwork at its best.
Q. What makes you passionate about journalism?
A. I have been a journalist for more than 30 years, 22 of them with Reuters. But breaking news and beating the competition can be addictive. U.S. boxer Sugar Ray Leonard once said: it’s hard to get to the top, it’s even harder to stay on top.
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