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China newspaper editor convicted of embezzlement has sentence reduced

[JURIST] Jailed Chinese newspaper ex-editor Yu Huafeng [Reporters Without Borders profile] has had his eight-year sentence reduced by one year, according to Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao Daily News [media website, in Chinese] on Thursday. Huafeng and his colleague Li Minying [Independent Chinese PEN Center (ICPC) profile] were both convicted in 2004 [Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) press release] for embezzlement, bribery and corruption. Both men claimed the money in question was obtained legally and used for routine business transactions. Minying, who was editor and director of the Chinese Southern Metropolitan Daily newspaper, was released last week [AP report], cutting his six-year prison term to three years. A third Southern Metropolitan Daily editor, Cheng Yizhong [ICPC profile], was released five months after his arrest in 2004 [BBC report], having never faced trial.

CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said the editors' arrests appeared to be part of a campaign to silence the newspaper's criticism of the government. Many suspected that the convictions were used to reprimand Southern Metropolitan Daily for publishing controversial reports [Asia Media report], including exposing a suspected case of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) [CDC backgrounder] in the Chinese province Guangdong before the government reported it to the World Health Organization (WHO) [official website]. AP has more.

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