HONG KONG—The authorities in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou have effectively fired the editor of the cutting-edge Southern Metropolis News , Cheng Yizhong, and stripped him of his membership of the Communist Party.
It's not convenient for me to talk.
Southern Metropolis News
Sources told RFA's Mandarin service that Cheng, who was recently released after a long investigation into bribery charges, had effectively been removed from his post.
A staff member at the newspaper told RFA that Cheng had been punished through administrative measures. Even though technically remains on the newspaper's payroll, he had not been to work properly since his release from detention in March.
When contacted by RFA's Cantonese service after his release last month, Cheng said: "I am resting at home."
But when asked when he would return to his old job at the paper, he said: "It’s not really convenient for me to talk," indicating a likely ban from giving interviews to the media. "I'm sorry," he said.
The paper's former general manager Yu Huafeng and former editor-in-chief Li Minying were detained and sentenced to 12 years and 11 years for embezzlement and bribery on March 19.
But their sentences were reduced to eight and five years respectively on appeal, fuelling hopes that charges against Cheng would be dropped altogether.
The case has become a focus for debates about media freedom in a country where official corruption is rife, and few channels exist to check the powers of local government and Party officials.
Many in China, including current employees of the newspaper interviewed by RFA, say the cases exemplify revenge by Guangzhou officials still smarting at the newspaper's exposure of how the city handled its SARS outbreak in 2002.
The newspaper shamed local officials with its coverage of the initial outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in Guangdong Province.
Employees at the paper told RFA in April that the corruption cases were the result of retaliation by vice-secretary of the Guangzhou municipal government Zhang Guifang and police chief Su Shuisheng against the newspaper, which interfered with their personal agendas with its hard-hitting news coverage.
Southern Metropolis News was set up as a commercial newspaper as part of a development plan for China's media.