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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 August, 2004, 12:15 GMT 13:15 UK
Chinese newspaper editor freed
By Francis Markus
BBC correspondent in Shanghai

Taxi driver reading Southern Metropolis Newspaper
The paper repeatedly exposed official wrongdoing in Guangdong
After five months in detention without trial, the editor of a Chinese investigative newspaper has been freed without any official explanation.

The news has been welcomed by academics in China, as well as international groups advocating media freedom.

Cheng Yizhong, from the Southern Metropolis News, was arrested in March, and his detention has widely been seen as politically motivated.

Two of his colleagues are still in jail facing charged of bribery and graft.

The release of the bold young newspaper editor marks a significant victory for those who mounted a vigorous campaign against the injustice he faced.

But attention will now focus on the fate of his two colleagues, Yu Huafeng and Li Minying, who remain in jail serving heavy sentences.

The case of the three men ignited a storm of controversy among Chinese journalists, lawyers and even retired officials.

The paper incurred the wrath of the authorities in Guangdong province in April last year, after exposing the death in custody of a young graphic designer.

Its journalists courted further official anger a few months later, when they disclosed a suspected case of Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in the province.

Their story is seen as a symbol, but far from an isolated case, of the hazards which China's investigative journalists face when they confront officialdom in defence of what they and many ordinary people regard as the public interest.

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