The publisher of Yanhuang Chunqiu, the mainland’s most outspoken political magazine, has vowed to carry on despite concern that recent stepped-up measures by authorities to rein in the respected publication may finally force it to lose its critical stance. Yanhuang Chunqiu (sometimes translated as China Through The Ages) is known for its outspoken articles that contest official versions of party history, and for years has been under pressure to soften its editorial stance. It was able to maintain a relatively liberal stance due to the support of many respected party elders, many of whom are in their 80s and 90s. But the embattled magazine suffered a series of blows in the past year. Fears were raised this month of renewed pressure after it received a warning letter from official censors and its chief editor Yang Jisheng was ordered to leave the magazine. Last September, authorities ordered it to switch its organisational affiliation to the Chinese National Academy of Arts, a body under the culture ministry – a move that rendered the magazine more vulnerable to censors. Like all state publications, it has to operate under a government-linked organisation responsible for its content. Late last year, an effort to save its editorial independence suffered again when Hu Deping , the son of the late liberal leader Hu Yaobang who was to succeed 91-year-old publisher Du Daozheng, was unable to take up the job. Last month, it was forced to cancel its annual dinner for the first time in its 24-year history. To add to its woes, former chief editor Wu Si and three editors under him resigned late last year. Du Daozheng on Tuesday confirmed that the magazine had received a letter from “relevant authorities” this month warning that a number of articles it published in past months had crossed the line. Although the magazine has always been subject to censorship and had to submit several articles to the authorities for approval before every publication, previous admonishment had mostly been verbal. Du said the magazine last received a written warning eight years ago. Former staff say the letter was from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television. Phone calls to the administration went unanswered on Tuesday. For nearly a decade, the magazine has pledged not to touch upon eight areas that the authorities see as sensitive: multi-party democracy, separation of powers, stories on party leaders and their families, Tibet and Xinjiang pro-independence rhetoric, the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown and religious issues. Du said the official letter rebuked the magazine for not submitting a number of articles for endorsement. But Du insisted that the incident arose because it was working with a new supervisory body and said the problem could be sorted out. “It will be okay as long as we pay more attention and submit more articles in the future ... there is no need to make too much out of this,” Du said. He insisted that his magazine, whose editorial board members are mostly pro-reform, elderly party members, would maintain its pro-reform stance. He also stressed that the magazine’s supporters, many of whom joined the party more than 70 years ago, were trying to help the country do better by expressing views that often differ from the party’s official line. “It would be meaningless if we waver (from our position); we will work hard to keep it running,” Du said. “In the past 24 years, there have always been upheavals, sometimes we make mistakes, but we never flinch.” Yang, a retired Xinhua journalist, said this week he would retire before the end of the year. He said his former employer quoted a party regulation that retired staff could not head another media organisation. Yang, 75, who became chief editor after former chief editor Wu Si resigned late last year, said he had originally planned to leave in June because he “felt tired”. But since the magazine needed him, he would leave before year’s end. He declined to elaborate, saying he was barred from talking to overseas media. He had worked for Yanhuang Chunqiu for 12 years. Wu Si, the magazine’s former chief editor, said the authorities have been tightening ideological controls and as the magazine has published several daring articles since he left late last year, he was not surprised that the authorities have taken stronger measures to rein in the magazine. He gave the example of an article in the January issue that alleged that disgraced deputy naval commander Wang Shouye had the backing of a Central Military Commission leader’s personal secretary, who was an ally of ex-president Jiang Zemin . Former executive editor Hong Zhenkuai, who also left the magazine late last year, believed the authorities wanted to bring the publication under tighter control without closing it to prevent an outcry. He expected the recent moves from the authorities would gradually change the magazine’s editorial stance and would lose its readership. “In one year, two years’ time, it might no longer be influential,” he said. “To let it die gradually is the best scenario (for the authorities).” He said it was clear that the authorities were intolerant of criticism of the party and the suppression of Yanhuang Chunqiu was a manifestation of that trend. The magazine had long represented the voices of party liberals who advocated political reform to make China into a “modern civilisation”, he said. “If they don’t allow you to exist, then to a certain extent, the authorities are not... prepared to go down this road [of political reform] – and this would have an impact on China or even the world,” he said.