Wed, Feb 14, 2007 - Page 4 News List

PRC editor freed early

HOMECOMING After receiving a jail term for reporting that embarrassed local officials, a Chinese journalist was released three years ahead of time

AP , SHANGHAI

A Chinese newspaper editor, imprisoned after aggressive reporting that was believed to have angered local officials, has been released three years before the end of his six-year sentence, a journalists' advocacy group said.

Li Minying (李民英), a former editor and director of the Southern Metropolitan Daily, has quietly returned to his home in Guangdong Province, Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said late on Monday.

The group said that Li was reported to be in good physical and psychological condition, but that he had expressed a wish not to speak to media.

Li was one of three Southern Metropolitan executives detained in 2004 after the newspaper reported on a young college graduate's beating death while in detention. The report drew the central government's attention and was considered a major embarrassment for local officials.

The newspaper also broke the news of a case SARS before Beijing reported it to the WHO.

Yu Huafeng (喻華峰), the newspaper's former chief editor, is still serving a six-year prison sentence. Its chief editor, Cheng Yizhong (程益中), was detained for five months but released without being indicted.

Embezzlement and graft charges against Li and Yu were widely believed to have been trumped up by vengeful local officials. More than 2,000 Chinese journalists later signed a petition calling for their release, in a challenge to Chinese media controls.

Yu had originally given a 12-year jail term for allegedly embezzling US$70,000 from the newspaper.

Li had been sentenced to 11 years on charges he took bribes totaling US$117,000. Both sentences were reduced on appeal.

Colleagues of the two said they had simply been distributing legitimate performance bonuses to the newspaper's employees.

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