Scuffles flare at liberal Chinese newspaper in protest over censorship

GUANGZHOU, China Tue Jan 8, 2013 4:21am EST

1 of 4. Demonstrators gather along a street near the headquarters of Southern Weekly newspaper in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, January 7, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/James Pomfret

Related Topics

Photo

Air strikes in Syria

The aftermath of strikes on IS targets in Syria.  Slideshow 

GUANGZHOU, China (Reuters) - Chinese police broke up scuffles outside the gates of a prominent newspaper in southern Guangzhou on Tuesday, as Communist Party authorities showed signs of a taking a harder line against journalists defying official censorship.

Crowds of people congregated for a second day outside the liberal Southern Weekly that has become embroiled in a highly symbolic open revolt against press control in Guangdong, China's most prosperous and liberal province, but many journalists were reluctant to call it a full-blown strike.

Guangdong was the birthplace of reforms, begun three decades ago, that propelled China to become the world's second-largest economy. How the party responds to the paper's battle against meddling by propaganda authorities stands to be a key indicator of new party leader Xi Jinping's reformist inclinations.

The scuffles broke out after supporters of the paper, published on Thursdays, jeered and skirmished with a small band of leftists holding posters of Chairman Mao Zedong and signs denouncing the Southern Weekly as "a traitor newspaper" for defying the party.

"These people (leftists) are paid agitators of the government, twisting the truth with propaganda. We had to do something about it," said pro-press freedom protester Cheng Qiubo.

Dozens of police officers had to intervene, though the protests were allowed to continue. Two technicians with a ladder tried to rig a surveillance camera to the branch of a tree outside the newspaper gates, but were swiftly surrounded and shouted down by angry crowds and forced to retreat.

The standoff at the Southern Weekly, long seen as a beacon of independent and in-depth reporting in China's stilted, highly controlled media landscape, escalated into a national social media issue and has triggered demands for the new leadership to enshrine media freedom.

The drama began late last week when reporters at the weekly accused censors of replacing an original New Year letter to readers that called for a constitutional government with another piece lauding the party's achievements.

Several protesters were called into local police stations to be questioned, according to a female known by her blogger name Ran Xiang JieJie, who said this was intended as subtle "intimidation" to deter further activism.

A purported directive issued by Beijing's Central Propaganda Department has been widely circulated in media circles and suggests authorities may be tightening their grip.

While the directive couldn't be independently verified by Reuters, a journalist at the paper and the China Digital Times displayed what he said were copies in which authorities reaffirmed the party's right to censorship, while backing Guangzhou propaganda chief Tuo Zhen, whom many have been calling on to quit.

"This situation could be going in a bad direction for us," said a source in close touch with Southern Weekly staff.

A controversial editorial by the state-run Global Times that was published by several Guangdong media outlets, but not any Southern Media Group publications, blamed foreign forces and activists such as Chen Guangcheng for inciting the protests, and said China wasn't ready for dramatic media reform.

Many reporters at the newspaper were reluctant to discuss their next move.

"It's not a convenient time for me to speak," said Wu Wei, the paper's social media editor. Other reporters at the paper said they would continue to fight for editorial freedom.

While some editorial staff at the Southern Weekly were widely reported to have refused to work since Sunday, some sources in the parent Southern Media Group say the paper may still be published on Thursday, with editors from sister publications possibly brought in to shepherd the paper into newsstands should staffers refuse to work.

(Additional reporting by Sui-Lee Wee in Beijing; Editing by Nick Macfie)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (1)
DeanMJackson wrote:
Ladies and gentlemen, in China all [fake] demonstrations are first approved by the Communist Party. In fact there is no such thing as “liberal” newspapers in totalitarian Communist China. All press/media are agents of the state, and any “critical” reporting by such “journalists” is first cleared by the Chinese Communist government.

Fake “dissidents”, fake “demonstrations”, liberal “journalists”, etc. are merely the precursors that the Chinese Communist Party created to provide the rationale for the upcoming fake “collapse” of the Chinese Communist government. This disinformation operation (the “collapse” of the government) is a stratagem that falls under the “Long-Range Policy” (LRP), the “new” strategy all Communist nations signed onto in 1960 to defeat the West with. The last major disinformation operation under the LRP was the fake “collapse” of the USSR in 1991.

For more on the LRP, read KGB defector Major Anatoliy Golitsyn’s book, “New Lies for Old” (available at Internet Archive), the only Soviet era defector to still be under protective custody in the West.

In fact, we don’t need Golitsyn to know that Communists never left power in the USSR, because they are STILL in power:

A sample of post USSR Presidents and who they were before the collapse:

Armenia:

Levon Ter-Petrossian – October 16, 1991 – February 3, 1998, Communist.

Robert Kocharyan – February 4, 1998 – April 9, 2008, Communist.

Serzh Azati Sargsyan – April 9, 2008 – Present, Communist.

Azerbaijan:

Ayaz Niyazi oğlu Mütallibov – October 30, 1991 – March 6, 1992, Communist.

Abulfez Elchibey – June 16, 1992 – September 1, 1993, not Communist.

Heydar Alirza oglu Aliyev – June 24, 1993 – October 31, 2003, Communist.

Ilham Heydar oglu Aliyev (Son of third President) – October 31, 2003 – Present, Communist.

Belarus:

Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko – July 20, 1994 – Present, Communist.

Kazakhstan:

Nursultan Abishuly Nazarbayev – April 24, 1990 – Present, Communist.

Kyrgyzstan:

Askar Akayevich Akayev – October 27, 1990 – March 24, 2005, Communist.

Ishenbai Duyshonbiyevich Kadyrbekov – March 24, 2005 – March 25, 2005 (Interim), Communist.

Kurmanbek Saliyevich Bakiyev – March 25, 2005 – April 15, 2010, Communist.

Roza Isakovna Otunbayeva – April 7, 2010 – December 1, 2011 Communist.

Almazbek Sharshenovich Atambayev – December 1, 2011 – Present, Communist.

Russia:

Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin – July 10, 1991 – December 31, 1999 – Communist.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin – 31 December 1999 – 7 May 2000 (Acting) and May 7, 2000 – May 7, 2008 – Communist.

Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev – May 7, 2008 – May 7, 2012, during his studies at the University he joined the Communist Party.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin – May 7, 2012 – Present, Communist.

Tajikistan:

Emomalii Rahmon – November 20, 1992 – Present, Communist.

Ukraine:

Leonid Makarovych Kravchuk, December 5, 1991 – July 19, 1994, joined Ukraine Communist Party in 1958.

Leonid Danylovych Kuchma, July 19, 1994 – January 23, 2005, Communist, 1960.

Viktor Andriyovych Yushchenko, January 23, 2005 – February 25, 2010, Communist, 1980.

Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych, February 25, 2010 – Present, Communist, 1980.

Uzbekistan:

Islam Abdug‘aniyevich Karimov – March 24, 1990 – Present, Communist.

If the collapse of the USSR were legitimate the 15 electorates of the former USSR would NEVER have elected for their respective Presidents Soviet era Communist Party Quislings. Such persons would have been immediately (1) arrested in the interest of national security; or (2) shunned by society. Remember, these Quislings belonged to the political party that for 74 years persecuted the 90% of the population that wasn’t Communist.

Imagine it’s 1784 America. The Treaty of Paris (1783) was signed the previous year ending the revolutionary war with Britain. So who do the electorates of the newly independent 13 colonies elect for their respective governors? They elect persons who were Loyalists (American supporters of Great Britain) during the war for independence! Of course, in reality the persecution was so bad for Loyalists in post independence America that they had to flee the country en masse for Canada.

Or try this one out: After the collapse of the South African Apartheid Regime in 1994, the majority black population reelect for their Presidents only persons who were National Party members before the 1994 elections!

Jan 08, 2013 10:07am EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

Full focus