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China 8 February 2008

Newspaper president’s release after four years hailed

Reporters Without Borders welcomes the release today of Yu Huafeng, the former president of the liberal Guangzhou-based newspaper Nanfang Dushi Bao, after his sentence was reduced for the third time. He ended up serving four years of what originally was a 12-year sentence on corruption charges.

When the sentence was reduced to eight years on appeal in May 2004, Yu said: "You can manipulate the law but not history."

"Yu’s release, obtained thank to the efforts of thousands of Chinese journalists, comes just three days after the release of Ching Cheong and clearly shows that campaigns of support for imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents can be successful", Reporters Without Borders said. "The campaigning for the release of other prisoners of conscience, including Hu Jia, must be stepped up before the Olympic Games."

Reporters Without Borders pays tribute to Yu, who headed one of China’s most independent and innovative dailies. He was the victim of a conspiracy by officials in Guangdong province who wanted to punish the newspaper for its outspoken reports, including its exposure of the death of a student in a police station.

Yu’s wife, Xiang Li, told Reporters Without Borders that he left Panyu prison, near Guangzhou, at 8 a.m. today and is already at home getting ready to celebrate the Lunar New Year with his family. She said she was very happy and thanked all those in China and abroad who had supported Yu.

Yu and the newspaper’s managing editor, Li Minying, were arrested in January 2004 and were sentenced to 12 and 11 years in prison respectively for alleged corruption. The newspaper’s editor, Cheng Yizhong, was also detained in 2004 in the same case, without ever being brought to trial. The sentences of Yu and Li were reduced to eight and six years respectively on appeal. Another year was taken off Yu’s sentence in February 2007, a few days after Li was released.

More than 2,300 Chinese journalists signed a petition for the release of Yu and Li in 2005, pointing out that all they did was award some employees bonuses linked to an increase in the newspaper’s earnings from advertising.

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