On 20 July, the high court in the southern province of Guangdong rejected the appeal lodged on behalf of Yu Huafeng, the former editor of the daily Nanfang Dushi Bao, arguing that "no new substantive evidence" had been presented. The appeal had been filed in November 2004 by Yu’s lawyer. The family reportedly chose not to refer the case to the central government. Meanwhile, the courts have yet to respond to the request made by Li Minying, another former Nanfang Dushi Bao executive.
Unprecedented campaign for the release of journalists Yu Huafeng and Li Minying
Reporters Without Borders hailed an unprecedented campaign by 2,356 Chinese journalists who signed a petition for the release of colleagues Yu Huafeng and Li Minying, managers of the daily Nanfang Dushi Bao, unfairly imprisoned for more than a year in Guangzhou, southern China.
"After the release of Cheng Yizhong, we all hoped that his colleagues would also be freed," the organisation said. "But the authorities in Guangdong Province insist on keeping in detention two executives of one of China’s most liberal and respected dailies. The High Court in Guangdong must hear this urgent appeal from the families and colleagues of Yu Huafeng and Li Minying, imprisoned through a conspiracy based on false accusations of embezzlement."
More than 2,300 Chinese journalist signed the appeal to the Guangdong High Court taking apart point by point the charges of misappropriation of funds that led to the imprisonment of Yu and Li respectively to eight and six years in prison.
The petitioners stated that all their colleagues had done was to award bonuses to some staff following a strong boost to Nanfang Dushi Bao’s advertising revenue. Numerous accounts pointed to the fact that the officials trumped up the charges to punish the managers of this liberal daily for a series of investigative reports on Sars and the death of a young graphic artist, Sun Zhigang, who was beaten to death in a police station.
The appeal letter starts: "We are journalists on Nanfang Dushi Bao (Southern Metropolis News), Xinjing Bao (Beijing News), Di Yi Cai Jing Ribao (First Financial Daily), Xin Wen Wan Bao (Evening News), Shanghai Qingnian Bao (Shanghai Youth Daily), of Sina.com and Sohu.com. We are former colleagues of Yu Huafeng and Li Minying, two of the main accused in the Nanfang Dushi Bao case. We are sending this letter on the basis of the following facts and opinions: We think that an injustice has been committed and that Yu Huafeng and Li Minying are innocent (...) We firmly believe that it is only a matter of time before justice is restored. And we think the sooner the better."
This open letter has been posted on the Internet while the families and two press bosses are still waiting for a reply from Guangdong High Court to their requests for release. Yu’s lawyer told Reporters Without Borders that he had lodged the application for his client on 12 November 2004, but there had been no reply from the court. The family of Li Minying made a similar application in January 2005, but have also received no response.
Both journalists are in Panyu Prison in Guangzhou. Their families say they are being well treated. They can talk to one another regularly and phone their relatives.
Unesco in April 2005 awarded its Guillermo Cano press freedom prize to Nanfang Dushi Bao editor Cheng Yizhong, who was implicated in the same case as Yu Huafeng and Li Minying. In his thank you speech, the renowned Chinese journalist, who was prevented from personally attending the award ceremony in Senegal, called for the release of his two colleagues.
The appeal in Chinese