Updated at 1:30 p.m. on 2014-10-27
The princeling son of late, liberal-minded premier Hu Yaobang will take over the editorship of a cutting-edge political magazine in China, according to its deputy editor.
Hu Deping, 72, will edit Yanhuang Chunqiu, which often publishes views that are at odds with the official line of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, following the departure of nonagenarian publisher Du Daozheng, deputy editor Yang Jisheng told RFA in an interview at the weekend.
"The powers that be wanted a change in editorship," Yang said, referring to China’s Ministry of Culture. "The venerable Du is very elderly; he's 91 now."
"So we spoke to those in charge and decided on Hu Deping."
"[They should take effect] in two months' time; at the end of November, is what we discussed," Yang said.
Yang said officials had promised that the magazine, which is backed by retired senior officials, would maintain its current editorial direction after it was ordered last month to answer directly to the ministry, rather than to the quasi-government Yanhuang Culture Association of China.
A Beijing source close to the magazine said Du's retirement was announced at a meeting of all staff at the magazine on Friday.
He said Lu De, son of late vice-premier Lu Dingyi, was confirmed as deputy publisher and legal representative.
"But whether or not Yanhuang Chunqiu will become more liberal or have more freedom of expression after they take over is very hard to say right now," said the source, who asked to remain anonymous.
But he said the overall direction of the magazine would likely remain the same.
"The appointment of Hu Deping and Lu De is really the princeling generation helping out the princeling generation," the source said, referring to the elite children of veteran revolutionary leaders.
A welcomed change
Bao Tong, a former top aide to late ousted premier Zhao Ziyang, welcomed the move.
"This is good, because Yanhuang Chunqiu can do things that the leadership can't," said Bao, who has been under house arrest at his Beijing home since serving a seven-year jail term in the wake of the 1989 military crackdown on student-led pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square.
The movements were sparked when thousands took to the streets during grave-sweeping festival in a show of mass public mourning for Hu Yaobang, who had been instrumental in righting many of the injustices of the Mao-era Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).
His successor, and Bao's former political mentor, Zhao Ziyang, was also ousted for taking a conciliatory line towards the 1989 student movement, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest, where he died in January 2005.
"I hope that Hu Deping and Lu De will be able to follow in Du Daozheng's footsteps and distinguish themselves as much as he did, perhaps do even more than he did," Bao said.
"I believe that's what Du Daozheng wanted to happen."
Yanhuang Chunqiu has published more than 200 issues in its 20-year history, and is no stranger to official criticism.
It was officially criticized for publishing articles about both Hu and Zhao, for writing about the separation of powers, forbidden by late supreme leader Deng Xiaoping, and for publishing accounts of Mao Zedong's early life written by his former secretary, Li Rui.
In 2011, China's censors shuttered the magazine's website after it called for reforms to China's political system, as a way to avoid escalating social tensions, although it has since reopened.
However, grassroots activists say it remains a liberal voice within the party establishment.
But Hong Kong-based China expert Willy Lam said it was unclear whether the magazine would be able to continue as usual under the administration of President Xi Jinping.
"I suppose the princelings...have more clout with the censors," Lam wrote in comments e-mailed to RFA.
"But Xi is clamping down really hard on everybody; so it is possible the magazine may lose...luster."
Since taking power in November 2012, Xi has launched a nationwide anti-corruption campaign in which he has vowed to crack down on high-ranking "tigers" and low-ranking "flies" alike.
China's Internet censors have tightened control over online commentary, state-run media have published a slew of glowing articles lauding his home-spun leadership style and work ethic, while anti-corruption czar Wang Qishan warned that the anti-graft campaign would continue indefinitely.
Wang told an annual meeting of the Communist Party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection that the investigation of powerful former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang and other top officials is just the beginning, official media reported on Monday.
"All these efforts have gained the support of the general public," Wang was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency. "This is just the beginning."
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.