Chinese reportedly held by Islamic State is advertising man

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BEIJING (AP) — A Chinese man reportedly held hostage by the Islamic State group worked in advertising and TV production and describes himself as a free spirit and reader of Greek philosophy.

The radical group released a poster on Wednesday with an image of the man, identified as Fan Jinghui, and the address of an advertising company registered by him in Beijing. The group also announced the capture of a Norwegian, identified as Ole Johan Grimsgaard-Ofstad, and demanded a ransom for both.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Thursday that authorities are still verifying the identity of the Chinese hostage. But the Sohu news portal reported that Fan was interviewed in 2001 by China National Radio as part of a feature about people without fixed careers.

Another man who appeared on the program, Pang Fei, told The Associated Press that he remembered being interviewed alongside Fan, and that he recognized him from the photo released by the Islamic State group.

"I love reading about the history of science," Fan said in the interview at the time. "And the ancient Greek great philosophers' pure spiritual pursuit of freedom really gave me a jolt. That great spirit can be seen as the powerful motive for me to go after freedom."

A transcript of the interview is available on the Sina online portal.

The Islamic State group announced the capture of the two men in posters in its magazine, Dabiq, but did not say when or where the two were captured. The group controls large parts of Iraq and Syria, and has killed several captives in gruesome videos released online.

Fan said in the radio interview that he was born in 1965 and worked as a high school teacher for six years after graduating from college. He said he joined an advertising firm in 1994 but left after about a year and later worked odd jobs, including as an off-the-books assistant producer at state TV broadcaster CCTV.

In 2002 he registered his own advertising company, Beijing Jingcai Yinsu Advertising Co. Ltd., according to a corporate database run by the Beijing government. However, the license was revoked from September 2003 until at least 2009, and it's unclear if was later renewed. That business, whose address was given on the Islamic State poster, specialized in design and organizing exposition and cultural activities.

Reporters gathered Thursday at the address of the advertising company, which was also believed to be Fan's residence. An outdated CCTV parking pass could be seen through the window of an old red Jeep parked there.

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