Censored... officials called for Caijing to be "rectified". Photo: AP
BEIJING: Leading Chinese editors say they remain optimistic about the development of the media, despite rising censorship triggering the implosion this week of the nation's most independent news publication, Caijing.
The magazine's editor, Hu Shuli, and most of her editorial team resigned after its founder and chief backer, Wang Boming, reportedly failed to take her side in a series of editorial battles with the Government.
The New York Times said the Politics and Law Committee, led by the security chief, Zhou Yongkang, ordered that Caijing be ''rectified'' in July after it failed to follow directions on reporting the bloody riots in Xinjiang.
Hu has taken a job as dean of the journalism school at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, as she tries to gain clearance to start a new publication called Caixin.
Most Caijing reporters and editors were hoping to join the new project, said an editor who resigned on Monday.
''We hope to start the new magazine before the end of the year,'' he said. ''It will be a challenge. But we had no choice. To stay we would have had to have traded our independence.''
Caijing's publisher plans to continue and has begun hiring a replacement editorial team.
Wu Si, the respected editor of Yanhuang Chunqiu, an intellectual magazine that repeatedly breaks taboos and edicts about reporting Communist Party history, said he remained hopeful despite a series of blows to media freedom. ''I am pessimistic for the short term but an optimist for the long term,'' he said.
Wu's publisher, Du Daozheng, who is protected by a series of former revolutionary heroes, this year managed to hold his job despite instructions from a former president that he should be removed, sources close to the magazine said.
In December another leading editor, Jiang Yiping, was ''reshuffled'' out of her deputy editor's chair at one of China's most independently minded newspapers, Southern Metropolis Daily, to run a rural publication.
Despite the long list of setbacks to media openness, Li Datong, who edited an edgy news supplement called Freezing Point before it was shut down in 2006, said the Government would ultimately lose its battle to control the media. ''I feel optimistic as long as there is the internet,'' he said.
Hu's planned new magazine, if it eventuates, is likely to be linked to the Zhejiang provincial government. This means it will be subject to the same propaganda and personnel management systems that drastically crimp China's official media.
Until this week, Caijing occupied a unique space in the news media environment, thanks largely to its connections with Mr Wang and the organisation that he appears to control, the Stock Exchange Executive Council.
Mr Wang owes his privileges to his father, Wang Bingnan, a former senior diplomat who rose to prominence as an assistant to the former premier Zhou Enlai.
Wu said his magazine and Caijing were the only influential current affairs publications where the Government did not control the funds, employee ''personal files'' and publication licence.
On Sunday China's propaganda chief, Li Changchun, marked Journalists' Day with a speech praising reporters for ''strengthening and improving'' the party's control over the flow of news.