We examine an important yet understudied form of reputational sanction in China, namely public criticisms imposed on culpable firms by the Chinese stock exchanges from 2013 to 2018. We find significantly negative cumulative abnormal returns around the announcement date, and they were affected by several factors, including financing propensity, governance mechanism, and equity nature. However, the market reaction is significantly negative only for firms relying on external financing and non-state enterprises, and importantly, becomes insignificant in cases where the firm had self-exposed misconduct before the official announcement of public criticism. Further, we examine other effects of public criticism, finding that public criticism does not improve firms’ long-term values, nor produce strong deterrence to change their behaviour. Overall, the evidence of the effects of public criticism on culpable firms is mixed, suggesting that reputational sanction is a weak, if not ineffective, instrument of market regulation in China.