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China removes editor of feisty tabloid

BEIJING -The top editor of one of China's boldest newspapers has been dismissed in what observers said was a move to strengthen Communist Party control over the media.

Yang Bin, the editor-in-chief of the Beijing News – a tabloid that has often reported on official missteps and misdeeds – was removed on Wednesday, Chinese journalists and media experts said.

The precise reasons for Yang's dismissal were unclear. But Pu Zhiqiang, a Beijing-based lawyer who often represents journalists and knew of Yang's removal, said party officials had accused the paper of 'multiple errors'.

Sources close to the paper and Chinese Web sites, said two of Yang's senior deputies were also removed, but this could not be confirmed..

Editors from the Guangming Daily, a conservative parent newspaper, were moved into the Beijing News to 'strengthen influence' and may take over the direct duties of those removed, according to another editor familiar with both newspapers.

The media sources all requested their names not be used, citing the sensitivity of propaganda controls in China.

The Beijing News was started in 2003 as a joint venture between the Southern Daily newspaper group – the Guangzhou-based owner of another two of China's most adventurous papers – and the politically prominent but financially strapped Guangming Daily, which controls 51 percent of the paper.

The Beijing News established a reputation for feisty reporting and commentary, despite the Communist Party's strict but erratic control over the press.

For a while the patronage of the Guangming Daily gave the Beijing News some protection from calls for censorship and stricter control by local officials, said reporters at the News.

Its notable reports included exposing a bloody crackdown by officials on protesting peasants in the northern province of Dingzhou, Hebei, in June. Six farmers were killed, and local officials were later dismissed and charged.

In 2004, an editor who helped found the Beijing News, Cheng Yizhong, was arrested on embezzlement charges related to his time at another crusading newspaper, the Southern Metropolitan Daily.

Cheng's lawyers and supporters denounced the arrest as a politically motivated act of vengeance, and Cheng was released without charges after five months. Yang replaced Cheng as editor-in-chief at the Beijing News.

A Chinese media expert who knew of Yang's dismissal said the Beijing News has long been in the censors' sights.

'The Propaganda Department has wanted to do this for a long time. Recently, there may have been a few reports and commentaries that provided an excuse', he said.

Date posted: December 28, 2005 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 10