Authorities in the southwestern city of Chongqing have released from jail a top journalist jailed by ousted former city chief Bo Xilai.
Gao Yingpiao, who had written critically of Bo's policies and was sentenced secretly to three years' imprisonment by a Chongqing court in 2010 for "endangering state security," was released on Sunday, his wife Li Danxin said.
"He is out a bit early, and his health is OK," Li said in an interview on Friday.
She said the family was unsure of whether Gao's release was the result of Bo's removal from office on March 15 and subsequent investigation for graft and involvement in the murder of a British businessman.
"We can't say yet," said Li, who only announced Gao's prison sentence in public last April after Bo's removal from office. "We haven't really even adjusted yet, and we haven't talked about it yet."
Gao had already served more than 26 months of the jail term, which was likely the result of a series of blog posts he had made on the popular social media site QQ during 2009 that were highly critical of Bo's high-profile, populist policies.
Lawyers involved in anti-crime campaigns in Chongqing during Bo's tenure have likened his policies to the "struggle" campaigns and kangaroo courts of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), alleging widespread framing of businessmen using torture and forced confessions, with the aim of confiscating their assets.
While the revolutionary song concerts and anti-crime campaigns won political plaudits for Bo at the time, the authorities have now offered an amnesty for police officers who elicited forced confessions, if they cooperate with current investigations into abuse of power in Chongqing.
Li said it was "inconvenient" for Gao to give media interviews, in an indication that keeping quiet may have been a condition of his release.
"He wants to thank everyone for their concern, but he apologizes that he won't be giving interviews because everything is still in the process of being sorted out, and his mother is sick," Li said.
"He will probably stay home for a while, because his mother is ill," she said. "He hasn't been able to take care of her these past couple of years, and he felt very guilty about that."
Li said she only found out Gao was being released on Saturday, and the authorities gave no detailed explanation for the move.
Gao, a graduate of the cutting-edge journalism department at Wuhan University in central China, worked as head of editorial at the Asia Pacific Economic Times and later as head of the newsroom at the China Commercial Times.
He first made his name during the 1980s with interviews of two high-ranking Chinese leaders.
Chongqing resident Fang Hong, who was sent to labor camp after writing a satirical poem online about Bo, said Gao's release was definitely linked to the fate of the former rising political star.
"Of course it's related," Fang said. "It's a way of admitting that this was a wrongful conviction."
He added: "It was ridiculous how easy it was to get sent to prison just for saying stuff back then."
Fang said a total of 5,800 people were sent to labor camp in Chongqing in 2011 alone, some for lodging complaints against the authorities, others for alleged gang involvement, and others for saying the wrong thing.
Fang said he was still awaiting judgement in his application for compensation from the authorities for his labor camp sentence.
Fallen political star
China's ruling Communist Party transferred Bo's case to the judiciary earlier this month, marking the beginning of criminal proceedings, although analysts said a trial is not expected soon.
Beijing-based rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan said the authorities were keeping most of the details of Bo's case secret.
"They seem to feel there is a need for secrecy," Liu said in a recent interview. "It's possible that this case doesn't involve state secrets, but that they are still treating it as internal [to the Party]."
The Party expelled Bo from its ranks in October, following accusations of corruption and sexual misconduct, later also removing his parliamentary privilege and paving the way for a criminal trial.
Bo was judged to bear "major responsibility" in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, for which his wife Gu Kailai was handed a suspended death sentence on Aug. 20, official media reports said at the time.
His former right-hand man and Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun was jailed for 15 years in September for "bending the law for selfish ends," "abuse of power," and "defection," after his Feb. 6 visit to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu brought the murder scandal to public attention.
Reported by Wen Yuqing and Hai Nan for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.