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Delhi Police accuse Chinese brands Vivo, Xiaomi of illegally funding NewsClick

Last week, the Delhi Police arrested NewsClick founder-editor Prabir Purkayastha and human resources chief Amit Chakravarty and raided nearly 50 others connected to the publication, also confiscating their phones and laptops.

The Delhi Police has named Chinese smartphone manufacturers Xiaomi and Vivo in the NewsClick complaint for incorporating numerous shell companies in India and illegally funding the news organisation, The Wire reported on October 6.

NewsClick is under investigation for allegedly engaging in a criminal conspiracy to spread Chinese propaganda. Last week, the Delhi Police arrested NewsClick founder-editor Prabir Purkayastha and human resources chief Amit Chakravarty and raided nearly 50 other journalists, writers and others connected to the publication, taking away their phones and laptops. Charges have been filed against Purkayastha, US businessman Neville Roy Singham, and activist Gautam Navlakha under multiple sections of the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, which is mostly used for terrorism. Media bodies have strongly condemned the arrest and raids calling them attacks on freedom of the press.

Xiaomi denied the accusation while Vivo did not respond immediately for comment, Reuters reported. NewsClick has also denied all allegations and has moved the Delhi High Court to quash the complaint.

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The complaint filed on August 17 also absurdly names lawyer Gautam Bhatia as a key person for his “spirited defence of legal cases” against Xiaomi and Vivo, but more details about the lawyer have not been provided and the name Gautam Bhatia does not appear as counsel for any case involving the two smartphone companies. “The best known and most visible lawyer carrying that name is the author of widely acclaimed books on the constitution and free speech, and his court practice has tended to be narrowly focused on human rights related cases,” The Wire stated, referring to writer Gautam Bhatia.

Xiaomi and Vivo, two of the largest smartphone brands in India, have sponsored numerous events (including major cricketing events), companies and people over the years. They have also donated to the PM Cares Fund. It’s not clear why their funding of NewsClick alone is being subject to scrutiny.

Separately, the two Chinese companies are also under investigation for tax evasion and have been asked to pay penalties for the same.

Apart from going after Chinese smartphone brands, the Indian government has been clamping down on Chinese companies in numerous other ways, from repeatedly banning Chinese apps to introducing rules to limit Chinese investment in India.

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