A newspaper vendor talks to a customer at her booth on a street in Shanghai, Jan. 8, 2013.
Chinese authorities have released an outspoken whistleblowing journalist after nearly a year in detention on "defamation" charges following his probe on a number of high-profile corruption cases.
Liu Hu, a reporter with Guangzhou's Modern Express newspaper, was released from Beijing's No. 1 Detention Center on bail, which means his release is likely to have conditions attached to it, his lawyer announced via social media on Sunday.
"I received notification from an official at the Beijing Eastern District prosecutor's office that Liu Hu is being released on bail, because they are unable to proceed with his case in the allotted timeframe," Liu's lawyer Zhou Ze wrote on the Twitter-like service Sina Weibo.
"I have always maintained that Liu Hu is innocent, and that his case should go no further than the procuratorate stage," Zhou added.
"Releasing Liu Hu on bail is a welcome step in the right direction."
Liu's July 2013 arrest came amid a wave of detentions linked to online "rumors" and nationwide calls for greater transparency.
He was formally arrested last October on "libel" charges.
Zhou tweeted that Liu had called him to say he was now safely at his home in the southwestern megacity of Chongqing.
Repeated calls to Zhou's cell phone rang unanswered during office hours on Monday.
However, Liu's friends said he should never have been detained in the first place.
"I'm guessing that if they have been investigating him all this time without finding anything on him, that's one form of revenge,"
Shenzhen-based lawyer and friend of Liu's, Li Guobin, told RFA on Monday.
"I find it hard to imagine what they can have been investigating all this time, because Liu Hu has never committed a crime," Li said.