Just three days after Straits Times journalist Ching Cheong regained his freedom, China has released yet another media man — Yu Huafeng (喻华峰), general manager and deputy editor of the Southern Metropolis News《南方都市报》, the Guangzhou-based paper that is one of China’s boldest and most critical papers.
According to AP, this is the Yu is the third journalist to be freed this month. Li Changqing (李长青), a former writer with Fuzhou Daily《福州日报》, was apparently released on the same day as Ching Cheong, but his release went largely unnoticed by the mainstream media.
Reporters Without Borders said the release shows that the Chinese government “sometimes responds to pressure from abroad by human rights groups”:
“Yu’s release, obtained thank to the efforts of thousands of Chinese journalists, comes just three days after the release of Ching Cheong and clearly shows that campaigns of support for imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents can be successful. The campaigning for the release of other prisoners of conscience, including Hu Jia, must be stepped up before the Olympic Games.”
Washington Post says Yu’s corruption charges were believed by local journalists to be trumped up by officials in retaliation for its “aggressive reporting”. The following examples of how the paper came to be a thorn in the side of local officials were given:
According to the journalists, authorities in Guangdong province were annoyed because of a Southern Metropolis News report in December 2003 revealing that a case of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, had been covered up despite pledges of openness by the central government in Beijing. Officials reacted with particular fury because they already had been embarrassed by the newspaper’s reporting in March of that year about an out-of-town student who was beaten to death while in police custody in Guangzhou, the provincial capital.
Revelation of the student’s death resulted in changes in the rules under which Chinese police can detain people found to be without proper residency papers. It enhanced the reputation of Southern Daily Group newspapers as being particularly bold in pushing the envelope against Communist Party censorship.
Caijing‘s 《财经》report reveals that throughout the four years in prison, Yu remained highly proactive. He read a lot, picked up English and even served as the editor of the Panyu Prison News. With his newfound freedom, Yu wants to get back to work immediately. But more importantly, he says, he wants to work within the law, appeal against the judgment, and have his name cleared.
AP: Chinese editor released from prison
Washington Post: Newspaper president’s release after four years hailed
Caijing: 喻华峰减刑出狱 “南都案”翻过一页
Image from enorth.com.cn