The early release of well-known newspaper editor Yu Huafeng last week has prompted several of those personally involved in his case and many others to share their perspectives on their blogs.
Yu is widely respected for his role in operating the successful and groundbreaking Chinese newspaper Southern Metropolis Daily since its early days in the late 1990s and, it seems, just as widely seen as having been made the main object of official anger at reports his commercially highly successful newspaper published over 2003 on stories from initial SARS cover-up in Guangzhou to the brutal police murder of a student in the same city, a death which provoked outraged across the country and led to significant legal reform.
Never before has someone convicted of embezzlement consistently received so much respect and love from their own workplace colleagues. Even when when was in prison, Old Yu went on as normal issuing strategies and suggestions. During those years, from the executives at Southern Media Group down to the ordinary employees, group after group paid him visits, sending joint letter after joint letter of appeal. Old Yu suffered for Southern Daily Group, and for the cause of press freedom in China, and to have defended this “criminal”, I feel truly proud.
Southern Group veteran and documentary filmmaker Zhou Hao has some photos of his own of Yu and his family's reunion on his SinoReel blog:
MSN Live Spaces blogger MaxiCool2004 finds hope in Yu's release in his Feb. 9 post, ‘Yu Huafeng released with a reduced sentence’:
Yu Huafeng was sentenced to 12 years for embezzling 100,000 RMB, but no matter if he in fact did, this was still a trumped-up charge! The Zhou Zhengyi case at the time involved 300,000,000 RMB, and he was sentenced only to three years, is this how the ruling party makes the people have trust in the judiciary? Since that case really was about corruption, why then was he let out [at all] before the Olympics? Does a judicial system such as this have any dignity?!
From Sina blogger ‘Big Tiger’ on Feb. 11, ‘Law and order is like gang war’:
Many people see this Southern Case as an extension of the Sun Zhigang incident. The Southern people got a public fixing, and even though the old leaders got involved, it still didn't stop a few key people from going to prison. If this really was a case of cause and effect, then it's also evidence of what a real jungle this world is that we live in.
MSN Live Spaces blogger Seismometer2006, who used to work at Yu's newspaper, doesn't see Yu's release as sign of any victory for press freedom:
需要说明的是，这条新闻我并非首先从国内媒体得知，而是午间休息时在“记者无国界”（Reporters Without Borders）网站上看到的。由于下午还有课，只能稍微“谷歌”一下，发现《卫报》上也有相关文章。 与国内消息有所不同，英国人暗示是最近国际笔会（International Pen Organization）向北京政府施压才直接导致了老喻一干人等的出走。但最根本的原因，大家都知道，还是要算到奥林匹克头上。文章这样写道：The campaigning for the release of other prisoners…must be stepped up before the Olympic Games ，我倒觉得不如直接把“before”改成“only because of”更贴切。问题接着就来了，正如易卜生询问的“娜拉走后怎么办？”，我们也（拼命地）跟着问一下：老喻出狱后怎么办？或者上纲上线，继而把问题扩大化：奥运以后，新闻怎么办？
What I want to point out is that I didn't even learn of this news first from domestic media, but from the Reporters Without Borders website during my lunch break. I didn't have class in the afternoon, so I stayed and did a bit of “googling”, and I found the related news on the Guardian website. Where it differed from mainland news is that the English person hinted it was recent pressure that International PEN had levied on the Beijing government alone that secured Old Yu's release. But the real reason, as everyone knows, rests with the Olympics. The article reads: “The campaigning for the release of other prisoners…must be stepped up before the Olympic Games,” but the way I see it, it'd be more appropriate if “before” were just changed to “only because of”. Which raises the next question; just like Mr. Ibsen asked, “What will happen after Nora leaves?,” we are also (madly) asking the same question: now that Old Yu is out of prison, what now? Or more practically, and to expand the issue: after the Olympics, what's News going to do?
The most dramatic contrast between this kind of loosening and tightening of controls took place just before the Lunar New Year on February 5. On this one day, after being sentenced to five years for “spying,” Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong was given a conditional release more than two years early, and Zhejiang dissenter Lu Gengsong was sentenced to four years for the crime of “inciting subversion”. CCP authorities’ delivery of Lu Gengsong's verdict on the very same day Ching Cheong was released was obviously in consideration of the Olympic image, seeking to water down the negative impact of Lu Gengsong's case. Sure enough, foreign media reports that day compared the two cases, with most of them putting Ching Cheong's release ahead of Lu's case.
MediaView blogger zany posts the part of the above-mentioned Caijing magazine article which lists the early developments in Yu's case, and ends with an old photo of a historical moment, the first printing of another highly-respected newspaper:
Indie blogger Wang Junyu also writes on Caijing coverage of Yu's case:
我记得军训的最后一个晚上收到短信说, 程益中无罪. 那时候我很高兴. 但是喻华峰仍然获罪, 程益中也仍然被开除了党籍, 于是仍然如鲠在喉. 如今喻华峰也终于获释, 看着 “财经” 网站上喻华峰和妻儿团聚喜气洋洋的照片, 突然想起当年读过喻华峰之妻向丽的文字, 说到只能欺骗儿子说 “爸爸出国工作”, 不禁唏嘘不已.
新年之际看到这样的消息, 我很高兴, “财经” 也可以高兴地宣布南都案 “翻过新的一页”. 个体的自由可贵, 自由的获得让我们高兴, 即使这样的自由或多或少是被赐予的.
程翔也于年前假释了. 这两天香港电视台新闻被遮盖的部分, 大部分是讲这个的.
I was happy to hear his news while ringing in the new year, just as Caijing was happy to announce “a new page had been turned” in the Southern case. Individual freedom is something precious, and the regaining of freedom makes me happy, even if it has more or less granted.
Ching Cheong has also been given early release. Parts of the Hong Kong TV News have been snipped these last two days, I guess most of it was talking about him.
Call Me Ishmael also expands on the Caijing story in Ishmael's Feb. 9 post, ‘Editor-in-Chief of ‘Panyu Prison Post‘ has been dismissed’:
The report goes on to reveal that during his four years of imprisonment, Yu not only kept his spirits up, but read heavily of the Arts, studied English, and also served as managing editor of the Panyu Prison Post.
Very few people will have read this newspaper, but this is one dismissal that one is happy to hear of.
Years ago, I did interviews in many prisons and detention centers around the country, including Guangdong province, and that's why I believe that Mr. Yu received the best treatment that the prison was able to provide.
For the past number of years, led by Southern Group, media have filed many reports on the new look of Panyu Prison, and the group even has “the first media in Guangdong province to supply prison inmates with both newspapers and reading racks.”
And, Netease blogger Round Yao on the evening of Feb. 11 published a pre-prison interview with Yu that was allegedly never allowed to be published but has been making the rounds online ever since, in which Yu talks about the business strategy and philosophy that helped him make Southern Metropolis Daily into what many consider remains today one of the most successful and respected newspapers in the country.