HONG KONG (April 27, 2010) -- In her first public remarks since her controversial resignation as editor of the groundbreaking independent business magazine Caijing, veteran Chinese journalist Hu Shuli declined to elaborate on the reasons behind her departure from the magazine late last year, but expressed optimism about the future of Chinese journalism, especially in new electronic formats.
Speaking at an international media conference in Hong Kong, Hu said she did not want to go into detail about her departure from Caijing, along with 140 other staff members, including all the top editors and reporters.
Leaving the magazine "was a difficult choice for us," Hu said during a keynote speech at the conference on "Reporting New Realities in Asia and the Pacific," sponsored by the East-West Center of Honolulu, Hawaii, and The University of Hong Kong's Journalism and Media Studies Centre. "Without going into further detail, I can only say that differing visions of Caijing's sustainable development brought us to our critical point," she said.
However, Hu said, Western media reports depicting the walkout as a major setback for independent journalism in China were not true. "We chose to leave because we wanted to continue what we had done, not because we wanted to give up," she said. "We re-gathered and begin a new journey now."
She said she remains "positive" about the future of journalism in China.
During Hu's tenure as editor, Caijing was widely viewed as China's most outspoken news outlet. The magazine broke critical investigations into economic malfeasance, exposed a government cover-up of the SARS epidemic and reported shoddy building construction after the Sichuan earthquake.
Such work earned Hu an international reputation as one of the most powerful commentators in China, and even "China's most dangerous woman."
Since leaving Caijing, Hu founded a new company, Caixin Media. The Beijing-based multimedia company began publishing Century Weekly in January 2010 and has since added other media ventures, including the monthly China Reform magazine, the news website caing.com and multimedia products for mobile platforms. Hu also joined the faculty of Guangdong-based Sun Yat-sen University as Dean of the School of Communication and Design.
Hu said her new ventures continue the same vision of practicing "top quality journalism in China. In addition to this, we have a broader engagement with our audience through more diversified mediums."
She said that while widespread economic strife and layoffs in Western news outlets have led to a sense of pessimism that is overwhelming journalists there, traditional media is prospering and growing in China, offering Chinese news media a window of opportunity to explore new media-industry models "before it's too late."
She did acknowledge, however, that journalism in China "faces more constraints than of the monetary sort."
Noting studies showing that more than 80 percent of China's 400 million Internet users surf the Web primarily to get news - compared to just 20 percent for the West - Hu said that the journalists at her new ventures are encouraged to report using "all mediums possible."
"People are looking for news on the Web," she said. "This is where our future lies."
Asked whether news media in China isn't essentially still an extension of the government due to official censorship, Hu replied that she doesn't think that is the case today. "The media environment is now very diversified," she said. "You can't take the situation as if there is just one voice. It was maybe the case 30 years ago, but not right now."