Yang Haipeng (杨海鹏), one of China’s top investigative reporters from the heyday of in-depth journalism from the late 1990s to mid-2000s in China, passed away suddenly today in Shanghai.
As a top investigative reporter for Hu Shuli’s Caijing magazine (财经杂志) in 2006, Yang, who had a background as a court investigator, was instrumental in uncovering details of the Shanghai pension scandal that brought down then mayor Chen Liangyu (陈良宇) and other city officials. Yang Haipeng had formerly worked as a reporter for Oriental Outlook, a magazine published by China’s official Xinhua News Agency, as well as for Guangdong’s Nanfang Daily Group as a senior reporter for Southern Weekly (南方周末), at the time one of the country’s most outspoken professional outlets.
In September 2002, amid a staff reshuffling at Southern Weekly months after the removal of the paper’s deputy editor, CMP founder Qian Gang (钱钢), Yang Haipeng was among more than 10 journalists who resigned in protest. He went on to found the Bund Pictorial (外滩画报) with Li Yuxiao (李玉霄) and others, serving as deputy editor-in-chief. In 2004, he also was involved in the founding of the New Weekly (新周报), a weekly digest that later folded. After leaving the New Weekly, Yang moved on to Caijing.
In November 2011, as the environment for journalism grew increasingly restrictive, and as Yang Haipeng’s wife faced an arrest for “private use of state assets” that Yang insisted was an injustice, he became among the first of a string of high-profile resignations of veteran journalists in China.
In the years that followed, Yang stayed away from journalism, but he remained an active voice on Chinese social media platforms. In late 2013, as restrictions on the rights of ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang became a growing concern internationally, Yang Haipeng was among a handful of Chinese to publicly voice criticism and urge compassion.
As a sign of opposition to severe surveillance and security measures in Xinjiang, Yang wore a doppa, a traditional hat from Central Asia associated with Uighur identity, as he passed through airport and train security checks in Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hangzhou – recording his actions on China’s Weibo platform.
A native of Shanghai, Yang was born in 1967. He graduated from Xi’an’s Northwest University of Political Science and Law, and worked as a teacher and judge before pursuing a career in the media.