BEIJING - A renowned Chinese columnist has lost his job at a magazine over commentaries on unrest in Tibet which did not conform with the official line, a watchdog group and a source with knowledge of the dismissal said on Tuesday.
Zhang Ping, who writes under the pen name Chang Ping, was sacked as deputy chief editor of the Southern Metropolis Weekly magazine, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said.
The group said in an e-mail Zhang's departure was "because of his editorials about Tibet", including the controversial piece "How to find the truth about Lhasa?"
"We deplore this unfair removal of a well-known member of the liberal press," the statement said.
Zhang declined to comment when reached by telephone. The source, requesting anonymity, confirmed the sacking but declined to provide further details.
Violent anti-Chinese riots broke out in Tibet and Tibetan-populated areas in neighboring provinces in March, with mobs killing about 20 non-Tibetan civilians, the Chinese government says. The Tibetan government-in-exile puts the figure at more than 200, most victims of a subsequent crackdown.
The crackdown led to protests by exiled Tibetans around the world and a troubled international leg of the Olympic torch relay for the Beijing Games in August.
Zhang's articles were published mainly in his magazine's sister newspaper, the Southern Metropolis Daily, and called on the government to allow more media freedom in covering the Tibet riots and to review its policy on Tibet.
The commentaries drew an angry backlash from a large number of Internet users, who accused Zhang of being a traitor and downplaying the violence by Tibetans as well as the perceived anti-China bias of Western media.
(Reporting by Benjamin Kang Lim; Editing by Nick Macfie)