Top executives at one of China’s most influential publications have resigned, the company said yesterday, amid an apparent fight for control of a magazine known for pushing reporting limits.
Caijing magazine’s general manager Wu Chuanhui (吳傳暉) quit and between 60 and 70 staff including other top officials also submitted their resignations, the head of public relations, Heidi Zhang (張立暉), said.
Zhang said the executives resigned for “personal reasons.”
However, her comments came amid intense speculation, confirmed by at least one staffer, that founder and managing editor Hu Shuli (胡舒立) was battling efforts to muzzle her editorial team, known for its daring investigative reports.
Hu is widely credited with making Caijing perhaps China’s most respected publication, known for reporting that pushes the limits of what is allowed in the nation’s media, which is tightly controlled by the ruling Communist Party.
Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper reported on Monday that Hu had threatened to leave in a bid to secure more control of the publication from its owner and publisher, the Stock Exchange Executive Council (SEEC).
The SEEC is a state-supported consortium of non-bank financial institutions.
Hu is reportedly threatening to start her own publication, but Zhang denied that, saying Hu and her editorial department were at work and that Hu had not publicly expressed any intent to leave the company.
Hu could not immediately be reached for comment.
“The operation of Caijing is normal,” Zhang said, adding that even those who had submitted resignation letters had not yet left.
However, a Caijing staff member said it was common knowledge at the magazine that Hu has been fighting off SEEC pressure to soften its reporting, especially after deadly ethnic unrest in China’s Xinjiang region in July.
The staffer said the SEEC wanted Hu’s editorial team to restrain its reporting and “to focus more on finance and the economy, and leave politics more on the side. That is not what [Hu] wants.”
“Since July 5, the conflict has increased,” said the staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The employee said a tussle has also raged over control of advertising revenues, with Hu seeking a greater share for editorial operations.
The staff member said Hu commanded the loyalty of the editorial staff.
“For the moment, the managing editor has not resigned. All eyes are on her — if she leaves, most people will probably leave with her,” the staffer said.
It was not immediately clear what impact the resignations of Wu and other business executives would have on the magazine’s direction.
However, the South China Morning Post said it was expected the departures would be a blow to Caijing since Wu’s unit was responsible for bringing in most of the magazine’s revenues.
Hu started Caijing in 1998 and it quickly earned a reputation for its independent voice and daring investigative reports that often cross the relatively safe lines of business journalism into political issues.
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