That was the first sign that the government didn’t welcome criticism of a system many believe maintains order and restricts the growth of slums in urban areas. Information officials then warned the newspapers. Zhang, the only public name attached to the article, lost his position as senior editor of the Economic Observer, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Media observers believe this kind of quiet retribution for
speaking out is not uncommon within the mainstream media in
“We believed that publishing an editorial on this topic would be in line with the direction of Chinese government reforms and with the broad public interest, and that the risks were not too great,” he told the Journal. Yet he and his colleagues misjudged: “After this incident, I was punished accordingly; other colleagues and media partners also felt repercussions. I feel a sense of guilt whenever I think about it.”
Zhang doesn’t spell out those repercussions, but he concludes by acknowledging that he is no longer a professional editor: “I am now an independent commentator,” he said.