* Southern Weekly hits newsstands nationwide after newsroom
* Protesters outside newspaper forcibly taken away
* Media tensions spread to Beijing paper
(Adds news "inspection" process, paragraph 10)
By James Pomfret
GUANGZHOU, China, Jan 10 A weekly Chinese
newspaper at the centre of anti-censorship protests appeared on
newsstands on Thursday as a newsroom strike ended amid fresh
calls for the Communist Party leadership to loosen its grip on
The strike at the Southern Weekly in affluent Guangdong
province came after censors watered down a page-two editorial in
the New Year edition. Calls for China to enshrine constitutional
rights were replaced with comments praising one-party rule.
The rare newsroom revolt at one of China's most respected
and liberal papers hit a raw nerve nationwide, with calls for
freedom of expression led by bloggers with millions of followers
such as actress Yao Chen and writer Han Han.
How the party responds to those calls will be a key
indicator of new party leader Xi Jinping's reformist
About six protesters were forcibly cleared from the gates of
the paper by plainclothes officials on Thursday, shouting as
they were bundled into vehicles as dozens of uniformed police
officers looked on.
The problem of reconciling the conflict between
conservatives and liberals was illustrated in scuffles and
heated arguments outside the Southern Weekly's gates all week.
Leftists carrying Mao Zedong posters and red China flags
repeatedly abused scores of Southern Weekly supporters for
undermining China's socialist system and one-party rule.
"After we have full stomachs, we want to say more. This is
normal," said Ye Qiliang, a young man in a brown jacket who
opposed the Maoists in one evening protest.
"The media is the people's voice. We are now all Southern
Sources close to the reporters said censors had pledged to
remove an "inspection" process to vet news topics, while
journalists would go back to work and not talk publicly about
the matter. While the paper's appearance in newsstands suggested
a truce, the latest issue carried subtle signs of resistance.
"GNAWING AT BONES"
Microblog posts attributed to newsroom staff expressed
dismay at censors forcing the paper to pull an editorial from
its current edition, which one source in Guangzhou close to
reporters at the Southern Weekly corroborated.
Buried in the back pages, however, was a call for reform.
"The party's methods of controlling the media must move with
the times," the article read, citing a Monday editorial from the
Communist Party mouthpiece, the People's Daily. In its
interpretation of the editorial, the Southern Weekly said the
remaining necessary reforms were as difficult as "gnawing at
"They need the protection and support of a moderate,
rational and constructive media," it said.
The censorship turmoil has also spread to the capital.
Online accounts said Dai Zigeng, the publisher of the popular
Beijing News daily, announced his resignation on Wednesday after
the newspaper resisted government pressure to republish an
editorial criticising the Southern Weekly.
Reporters Without Borders, an advocacy group for
journalists, called on party chief Xi, set to become president
in March, to put an end to censorship.
Chinese Internet users face the "Great Fire Wall" of
censorship, especially over politically sensitive topics such as
human rights, while foreign websites such as Facebook, Twitter
and Google-owned YouTube are blocked.
"We believe that the system and actions of infringing on the
media's autonomy and citizens' freedom of expression run
contrary to the excellent Chinese political tradition as well as
the modern spirit of rule of law," wrote a group of prominent
Chinese scholars in one of several online open letters and
petitions widely circulated on the Southern Weekly standoff.
While the newsroom revolts could be isolated, middle class
patience with the denial of basic freedoms appears to be wearing
"I don't want anyone recklessly deleting, changing, tying or
binding me," wrote Han Han, one of China's most popular bloggers
with some 30 million followers.
(Additional reporting by Hui Li, Sui-Lee Wee and Megha
Rajagopalan in Beijing; Jane Lee and Anita Li in Shanghai;
Editing by Nick Macfie)