When Zhu Shunzhong from Henan's Dahe Daily started work in May on a story about local government officials illegally buying low-cost welfare housing, he never expected the report would attract countrywide attention and cost him his job. 'I am still quite confused about how the whole thing developed into such a bad situation,' Mr Zhu said. 'I feel very aggrieved.' But the 29-year-old journalist is also unrepentant about drawing attention to what had long been an open secret in the provincial capital, Zhengzhou . Mr Zhu's story, which appeared in the Dahe Daily, Henan's most outspoken newspaper, in mid-June, detailed how some officials in Zhengzhou were banding together to buy more than 120 apartments categorised as 'affordable housing' at a discount. His article also described how some buyers profited on the properties by reselling them at market price. Under the mainland's affordable housing policy introduced in the early 1990s, subsidised homes are sold to the needy at well below market price. The apartments must also be built to government specifications, restricting their size and auxiliary facilities. But lax supervision means the policy has failed to benefit the many people who need the homes, allowing many wealthy buyers to take ownership of the properties. Some were built to luxury designs. The interviews and detailed figures in Mr Zhu's article ensured it was soon picked up by other media across the country, including state outlets, to highlight corruption under the policy. He said a deputy Henan governor and Zhengzhou's party chief were ordered to Beijing to explain the matter several days after the story appeared. Then the warnings started. Mr Zhu said that through his employer, the municipal government warned him to back away from the issue, and senior newspaper management who had once supported him told him to 'prepare to leave'. He was finally dismissed last month for 'accepting interviews for follow-up on the story from China Central Television and a Beijing newspaper without the company's permission', an explanation Mr Zhu and his friends believed was simply an excuse for his employers to get rid of him because of 'pressure from the authorities'. At the same time, the State Council punished provincial and city officials for the Zhengzhou government's illegal requisitioning of land for a university town. Mr Zhu's report was widely seen as the fuse that triggered the State Council crackdown because the welfare housing and the university town are in the same district of the city, an area notorious for illegalities committed by government officials. In addition to losing his job, Mr Zhu has been locked out of any other work in Henan media and faces the prospect of having to move away to find employment, meaning he will not be able to take care of his elderly parents. 'I didn't want to lose my job; I didn't want to leave my home town and work far from my parents, but I was given no choice when the Dahe Daily made the decision to tell me to leave,' he said. 'I insisted I had done the right thing because the story could alert the authorities and urge them to improve the welfare housing system. I am a reporter sticking to my journalistic ideals and would like to do something meaningful to promote the progress of our society. I will never regret doing that.' Mr Zhu said his only regret was that he would be unable to satisfy his mother's wish for him to have a stable job in Henan, get married and have a child as soon as possible. He had promised to bring a girlfriend home next Lunar New Year, but that appears to be out of the question. 'The biggest suffering is that I will have to break my promise to my mother, and only because of a 4,000-word story.'