The much anticipated resignation of Hu Shuli from the Caijing Magazine has finally been confirmed. This marks more than just the end of an era for an influential finance magazine that earns its reputation for its relatively independent voice. It is also a solemn reminder of the inevitably futile task of negotiating freedom with a totalitarian regime.
The news about Hu’s resignation was first circulated among Chinese Twitterers this afternoon. About nine hours ago a blogger called Hecaitou posted this tweet:
Absolutely reliable information: Hu Shuli has resigned to take up a position as the Dean of Media Studies at Sun Yatsen University.
Three hours later, Deng Zhixin of Southern Metropolis Daily posted the following under his Twitter username @xmarden:
Sun Yatsen University stated in an interview that Hu Shuli had been offered a full-time tenure position as the Dean of Mass Media and Design. The letter of appointment was issued several days ago. I note in particular the way in which the spokesperson has put stress on the term “full-time”.
Wang Shuo, the Managing Editor of Caijing, announced his resignation through Twitter:
I have put in my resignation from the position of Managing Editor at Caijing. However I’ll stay for the transitional hand-over. Everyone is blogging about my resignation via Twitter: my wife, my colleagues, the media and the finance sector. I don’t think the stock market will be affected.
Wang Shuo has also provided a list of names of Caijing employees who have resigned. They include Editing Director Yang Daming, Deputy Editors Zhang Jin, Zhang Jiwei and Wu Peng, as well as Wang Xiaobing and Ye Weiqiang, the two assistants to the Chief Editor.
Joel Martinsen of Danwei is the first person in the English language media to cover the news. Joel has also included a translation of Hecaitou’s blog post on this topic. Other major international news agencies that have covered the news, including AP, Reuters and Wall Street Journal, have described Hu’s resignation as a major set-back for Caijing and for the prospect of independent reporting in China:
Ms. Hu’s resignation comes as the media in China is coming under double-barrelled pressure: to make money but also toe the government line on a variety of sensitive topics. It also shows the fragility of institutions like Caijing, which earned a reputation for pushing the envelope on press freedom in China, said Russell Leigh Moses, a Beijing-based political analyst.
“The way the media is set up here, there’s basic instability,” Mr. Moses said. “Today’s star can be tomorrow’s martyr.”
Is this the end of Hu’s journalism career and the beginning of her academic career? Most commentators, including the Chinese tabloid Global Times, are not totally convinced. The most widely circulated rumour seems to suggest that she will be teaching journalism while at the same time launching a new financial magazine with a new media partner. Maybe? Maybe not? We’ll soon find out.