A South China Morning Post article (via Asia Media) argues that public pressure and online activism, especially from prominent lawyers and intellectuals, led to the release of Southern Metropolis News editor Cheng Yizhong. The story quotes a Sun Yat-sen University professor: “Professor Yuan said intellectuals had taught mainland leaders a lesson about contemporary society, which made some realise that they could not go against the law and public opinion. ‘This is progress. It’s a small step, but it is a beginning when China’s intellectuals stand up to speak and its leaders are willing to listen,’ he said.”
One of the main websites which advocated on behalf of the paper, the Open Constitutional Initiative, is back online after being closed down this summer. Defense lawyers and others have posted articles and statements there in defense of Cheng Yizhong and his colleagues. The site also contains documents about a number of other sensitive legal cases.