Former magazine chief refused to sign letter of resignation The former editor-in-chief of the liberal magazine Tong Zhou Gong Jin has been stripped of his seat on the Guangdong Political People's Consultative Conference after refusing to sign a letter of resignation. Xiao Weibin, 58, was visited by a United Front Work Department official and given the letter to sign after he complained to the department's head, Li Tongshu, that a notice advising him to attend last month's meeting had been removed from his office. 'I told Mr Li that if they hadn't wanted me to attend the meeting they should have sent someone to tell me why instead of taking the notice away stealthily,' said Mr Xiao, who had worked for the respected magazine since its launch in 1988. 'Two days later, he sent someone to talk to me and gave me a resignation letter to sign. They told me I had reached the age of retirement, but I am a non-partisan member and can serve until I am 65.' Mr Xiao was included on a list of 19 members quitting for various reasons and the resignations were approved en bloc by members of the standing committee of the advisory body, with just one abstention. He was sacked last year after running an article written by former Guangdong party boss Ren Zhongyi, who was then one of the magazine's advisers. The article criticised late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping for not seizing the opportunity to push for deeper reform. The editor had been told he was too old for the job, but was replaced by a 62-year-old. Huang Zhechu, who abstained from the standing committee vote, said he had only been questioning a point of procedure. He said Mr Xiao had to resign because the privilege came with his job at the magazine, which is published by the advisory body. But he praised Mr Xiao as an outstanding editor who had worked hard to make Tong Zhou Gong Jin an influential magazine at home and abroad by publishing views that readers cared about. 'The present Tong Zhou Gong Jin is also doing the same thing but the standard is not the same ... I hope it will recover its former status,' he said. Under its new editor-in-chief, the magazine is positioning itself as the consultative conference's mouthpiece. But Mr Huang said it should instead be a forum where different views could be expressed. A Chinese Academy of Social Sciences scholar, Xu Youyu, said editors were being punished even though they were not out to challenge the government but only trying to do a better job as 'public media'. 'Freedom of expression should not be punished like a common crime. It's because they exercised their right to voice their opinion that they are punished,' he said. The punishment would make the media exercise strict self-censorship or find even more subtle ways to express views.