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China editor says punished over bold editorial over controversial household registration system

Posted by Author on March 11, 2010

AFP, Mar. 10, 2010-

BEIJING — A Chinese editor involved in authoring an unusually bold editorial that demanded reform of a controversial household registration system says he and others have suffered retaliation.

Zhang Hong, a former deputy editor with the Beijing-based Economic Observer, said he was punished after the editorial ran jointly in 13 major newspapers across the country last week.

“After this incident, I was punished accordingly; other colleagues and media partners also felt repercussions,” Zhang said in a letter dated March 9.

The editorial was highly unusual as the country’s media rarely criticise official policy overtly, either because they are tightly controlled by the government or censor themselves to avoid repercussions.

Zhang’s letter focussed largely on explaining why the editorial was written and did not confirm if he had been removed from his post, but added he was now an “independent commentator”.

The letter appeared on a number of Chinese blogs and Internet sites, and the website of the Wall Street Journal, which said he had been forced from his job as a senior editor, citing unnamed sources.

AFP was not able to independently confirm the authenticity of the letter. Staff members at the Economic Observer denied anyone had been punished when contacted by AFP.

The letter appeared to underline the risks faced by the nation’s proliferating media outlets despite repeated pledges by the Chinese Communist Party to allow its press a freer rein.

The editorial was especially provocative as it ran on March 1, ahead of the convening of China’s National People’s Congress, the rubber-stamp parliament, and called on delegates to step up reform of the so-called “hukou” system.

The system ties people to a residency registration in their hometown, largely preventing them access to a range of public services such as health insurance and free schooling for children once they migrate to other cities.

It has become increasingly unpopular with the nation’s more than 200 million migrant workers. The 13-paper editorial said it “shackles” China’s people……. (more from AFP)

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