Editor of paper that broke SARS story arrested, then released

This is an interesting story for those wondering how much freer the media in China really are. Maybe it’s getting better, but those who go to press without permission had better be prepared to answer to the prosecutors.

An editor whose newspaper broke the news of China’s first new SARS case was detained and questioned by prosecutors, a human rights center reported.

Cheng Yizhong, editor in chief of the Southern Metropolitan Daily, declined to comment on his reported questioning, but appeared to indicate the issue may have been resolved.

“It’s inconvenient for me to speak right now, but this matter should be over,” said Cheng, reached at the newspaper’s offices.


Chinese journalists who anger local authorities often find themselves accused of corruption or other unrelated crimes. Some have been jailed after exposing embezzlement and other official abuses.

“Provincial party leaders are extremely unhappy that the Southern Daily failed to get the approval from the provincial party committee to print the SARS story,” the Information Center said.

It really does look like the government is being much more responsible this year about confronting SARS. But language like this tells us they still want to control whatever the people see or hear about the disease, and that once again opens the door for deception and denial.

The Discussion: 2 Comments

I think the trouble does not come from “the government” as a whole, but rather provincial leaders, as always.

Central gov seems of good faith on this one, but they often have difficulties controlling major provinces.

Because central gov does not want a bad image for China, but the Guangdong gov just does not want a scolding by Beijing, hence their reluctance to having such things printed.

That, and that alone, was responsible for most of the mess last year.

January 8, 2004 @ 6:19 pm | Comment

I completely agree about the local government, but they behave as they do because the system nearly forces them to, where they are always trying to look good and show the central government how stable and rosy and harmonious things are.

As to the SARS cover-up, I disagree. Much of it was blessed by higher powers in the central government, though the initial cover-up may have started with local officials.

January 8, 2004 @ 7:31 pm | Comment

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