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Chief Editor arrested, Manager sentenced for honest reporting
Reports angered Chinese government causing retaliation
Xu Zusi

Cheng Yizhong, former Chief Editor of Southern Metropolitan News (SMN) was arrested at his home on March 19 at 3:00 in the morning. Cheng Yizhong has angered Chinese authorities many times in the past for reporting the truth in his articles. Meanwhile, Yu Huafeng, former Advertisement Manager of SMN, who was charged with corruption, was sentenced to 12 years in jail.
Cheng Yizhong served as former Chief Editor for SMN, and he was currently the Chief Editor for Xinjing Newspaper. According to Faxin News Agency, Cheng Yizhong was arrested at his home on March 19 at 3:00 a.m. His wife, Chen Junying said that Mr. Cheng was charged with stealing national property. Mrs. Chen and other sources believe that Mr. Cheng’s arrest had to do with reporting news that irritated the Chinese government.

According to sources inside China, in March 2003, SMN revealed that Sun Zhigang, a graduate from Wuhan University, was beaten to death at the Guangzhou Temporary Custody Center*. This report caused quite a stir in society and eventually led to the abolishment of the custody and repatriation system. Thus the report irritated the Public Security and Prosecution agencies. Also, SMN reported on SARS without permission from the Guangdong State government, which generated resentment with the state authorities.

On January 6, 2003, Cheng Yizhong was arrested and investigated for corruption by state prosecutors. He was released on January 7. According to a reliable source, this was done in retaliation by the Chinese Communist Party.

SMN is a branch of the Southern Newspaper Group, which was founded in May 1998, and is one of the ten largest Chinese newspaper groups. It is also the first newspaper group founded by the state government. In the past several years, Southern Weekend, published by SMN, has been “sanitized” several times because of angering the government. It’s 21st Century Global Reports have also been put to a stop since reporting Li Rui’s political commentary early last year (Li Rui was the secretary of Mao Zedong). Right now, there is no sign that it will publish in the future. Southern Newspaper Group dares to publish the truth. Southern Weekend’s report about Hunan killer Zhang Jun has proven their commitment to truth in reporting. For this story, Southern Weekend chose to do an in-depth report. It discussed the steps that led Zhang Jun, who was born into a poor family, to become a notorious killer. It pointed out that the fundamental reason why Zhang Jun became a criminal is the phenomenon of corruption in different levels of the Hunan state government.

Recently, the Chinese government accused Southern Newspaper Group committee member, Li Mingying, and SMN Advertisement Department Manager, Yu Huafeng, of corruption. According to an Asian Media Network report, Yu Huafeng has been sentenced to 12 years in jail, and Li Mingying has been sentenced to 11 years in jail. Yu Huafeng was accused of pocketing 1.56 million yuan. He allegedly kept a portion for himself, and then dispersed the rest to other committee members and people from the accounting department. He also allegedly gave Li Mingying 970,000 Yuan, and Li accepted it. However, both Li Mingying and Yu Huafeng have denied these allegations and said that they will appeal.

According to Mrs. Chen, as quoted by Agency France Press, “These are just minor financial problems. The Newspaper kept advertisement income and didn’t hand it in. They (the government) are making use of these minor problems to persecute them.”

(Editor’s note: The custody and repatriation centers were a part of a nationwide system in China for the detention and control of migrant workers in urban areas. Workers without a proper work permit would be sent back to their home village at their own expense. According to Amnesty International, “People held in the transfer centers have to pay for their food and accommodation and for their transportation to the place of ‘repatriation.’ Those who cannot pay are forced to work instead. Many are reportedly held in such centers for months without prospect of release because they have no money and no relatives or friends to bail them out. The system effectively permits the arbitrary detention of individuals who are not suspected of committing any crime. Many incidents of physical abuses and extortion had been reported at the custody and repatriation centers before the system was abolished last fall. )

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