The editor of a popular Chinese publication yesterday said that he was fired after reporting widely on corruption, driving home the fact that new relaxed rules on foreign journalists do not apply to locals.
Huang Liangtian (黃良天), 50, was sacked after transforming Baixing (Popular Masses) into a widely read magazine with a fearless reputation for investigative reporting into corruption.
"I was really sorry to hear that I had been sacked -- I've been working in the media industry for more than 20 years," Huang said by telephone.
"I don't dare guess why the [Chinese Communist] Party sacked me, because I fear that they will accuse me of leaking state secrets," he said, referring to a method used in China to quiet journalists.
Huang was formally sacked on Dec. 30. Yesterday was his final day in the office.
Huang said he had focused his three-year tenure at Baixing on advancing press freedom in China and expressed doubts that the state-run media would ever be allowed to openly criticize the government.
"I made my greatest effort [for press freedom] while here at Baixing," Huang said.
"Now I am not so sure that press freedom is going to improve for the government media."
The Paris-based Reporters With-out Borders condemned Huang's sacking, saying it was part of a media purge that began last year in an attempt to stop growing criticism of officials belonging to the Chinese Communist Party.
"After starting 2006 with [media] purges ... the Propaganda Department ended the year by unceremoniously removing the courageous editor of a magazine that did not hesitate to condemn corruption," it said in a statement.
"The authorities are allowing foreign journalists more freedom, but at the same time the Chinese media are still being kept under strict surveillance by the Propaganda Department and by local authorities," it added.
Huang's sacking comes after restrictions on foreign reporters were lifted on Jan. 1, ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, allowing overseas reporters the freedom to interview Chinese without first getting government approval.