Former Nanfang Daily Group deputy editor-in-chief Jiang Yiping. Image from Baidu Baike.

Earlier this summer, we posted two tributes to Yang Haiping (杨海鹏), one of the top investigative reporters in China from the heyday of investigative journalism from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s, who passed away suddenly in Shanghai on June 30. For many media veterans in China, the death of Yang Haipeng, who was also a CMP fellow in the early 2000s, was a painful reminder of the passing of a more hopeful era for Chinese journalism.

As veteran journalist Xiao Shu (笑蜀), a former columnist at Southern Weekly, said in a tribute during Yang’s online memorial on July 10: “Today, we remember not just [Yang] Haipeng the individual, but an era that has passed, a golden age of investigative reporting and current affairs commentary, a golden age of the media, a golden age of civil opinion, a golden age of the rebuilding of civil society.”

“In short,” said Xiao, “we feel nostalgia for heroic times.”

Xiao’s tribute was a portrait in contrasts, bold in its own way. In remembering the “golden age” of the past, he also yearned for a “new era” (一个新的时代) of openness and justice, an unmistakable reference to the repression of Xi Jinping’s “new era” (新时代).

Continuing our series of tributes to Yang Haipeng, a way of looking back at the recent history of journalism in China, we offer a translation of the remarks delivered at the outset of the July 10 online memorial by Jiang Yiping (江艺平), the former deputy editor-in-chief of the Nanfang Daily Group, long the publisher of some of China’s boldest publications, including the Southern Weekly newspaper of which she was once chief editor.


By Jiang Yiping

Haipeng’s life was unique, the stuff of legend. I believe that Haipeng, who suffered such hardships, and the family he loved so dearly and did everything to protect, finally have some peace, and will have happiness. But Haipeng the legend, at 55, in the prime of his life, has passed, and his passing has become a great sadness for all of the friends who loved and understood him – and many still find it impossible to bear.

These days, like many of his friends, I have also searched back through the memories buried by time, going back to the Haipeng I knew. My memories deal with just a small portion of his legendary life, his time at Southern Weekly. But for me, this older sister, these memories will become, because of his passing, a precious time I will treasure for the rest of my days.

In order to more faithfully grasp Haipeng, I looked back through my bound volume of Southern Weekly. 1998. 1999. 2000. 2001 . . . . Newspapers printed more than 20 years ago, already yellowed with age. I looked back through Haipeng’s reports in the paper, and suddenly they were all fresh to me. I know that many colleagues will regard “Three Noble Laureates Criticize China’s Nucleic Acid Nutrition Products” (三位诺贝尔奖科学家指斥中国核酸营养品) and “Whose Supporting the ‘Underground Organization Minister’ Behind the Scenes?” (谁是’地下组织部长’的后台) as his most representative works, and as classics from the canon of the era of investigative reporting. How to open up the complex network of interests and harm in the nutritional products industry, and how to break through the corrupt official network of cronyism involving the private sector that was completely unknown to people – these were questions to which Haipeng applied the keen blade of his investigative skills.

Haipeng came from a background in law, and he had worked in the courts. When he was a reporter at Southern Weekly, exposing corruption in the justice system was his special territory. On September 7, 1999, he published “Hundreds of Millions Lost in Two Fake Rulings” (两张假裁定 赖掉上亿元), which revealed that the president of the Hangzhou Intermediate Court had colluded with others to falsify rulings and cause two enterprises to lose massive bank loans, costing the state hundreds of millions of yuan. This report alarmed the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the Supreme Court.

On January 7, 2000, [Yang Haipeng] published “Loansharking in the Courts” (高利贷出自法院), which offered a living example of how political and legal organs could engage in profit-making activities, impacting the justice system.

Haipeng’s life was full of legends. Later he would microblog to save his wife, fighting against Shanghai prosecutor Chen Xu, the so-called “Law Lord.” . . . But the Haipeng I knew always had deep inside him the psychology of a professional journalist (职业记者的情结).

I saw a quote from Haipeng online that I think captures the Haipeng I knew: “It’s about how we use our own strength to turn our society into a just society, that’s what I think the attitude of a citizen should be.”

Haipeng, I am filled with honor and gratitude for having crossed paths with you.

CMP Staff

The China Media Project

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