The confrontation between journalists and the propaganda officials of the Guangdong government and the wide-spread protests after the New Year special editorial of the Southern Weekly was censored has been developing dramatically in the pass week. On January 8, according to multiple sources, after the China Communist Party Secretary of the Guangdong Provincial Committee Hu Chunhua¡¯s direct mediation, some staff of the Weekly that was on strike made a compromise with the local Communist Party officials. The latest issue of the magazine is published on January 10, Thursday, as usual.
The stand-off started on January 3, when the CCTV and some netizens discovered several unusual editing errors on the Southern Weekend¡¯s New Year¡¯s editorial entitled ¡°seeking dreams.¡± The Southern Weekend has been one of the boldest and most liberal media for two decades in China. On the same day, some editors and reporters of the magazine posted a microblog revealing the propaganda department of the Guangdong government broke the normal editorial and publication review procedure and revised and replaced the original article that had focused on constitutional politics and political reform. On January 5, the journalist released more information, claiming there were 1,034 articles of the magazine censored by the Guangdong propaganda department in 2012, especially after the iron-handed propaganda chief Tuo Zhen took office since last May.
Such an unprecedented open protest against government censorship triggered a surge of resistance in China. Although Sina Weibo later deleted related microblogs and banned the search of ¡°Southern Weekly¡± netizens, including public figures, businessmen, entertainers, scholars and students, expressed their support to the journalists by re-tweeting the information or signing petitions. The incident escalated in the coming days. Official newspapers such as the Global Times, China Youth Daily, Guangming Daily and Remin Daily published several editorial commentaries insisting ¡°media freedom with Chinese characters¡± and linked other events (such as the Chen Guangcheng topic) with the issue. Some other Chinese newspapers implicitly expressed their discontent against censorship.
From January 4, tens of Guangzhou citizens gathered near the building of the Southern Weekly, supporting the journalists and advocating for media freedom. On January 6, after Southern Weekly¡¯s official microblog released an announcement denying the previous accusation against the propaganda department, some editors signed a new petition and condemned the official¡¯s revocation of the magazine¡¯s official microblog account, revealing the split within the magazine between the staff and directors.
According to Chinese domestic and overseas observers, the incident is a bellwether of the new CCP leadership¡¯s resolution regarding further political reform. On the other hand, Professor Zhan Jiang believes the official reaction ¡°disappoints people and crushes their hope for political reform¡±. Others believe this is just an independent incident.
(January 4, Global Times; January 5, Lianhe Zaobao; January 6, ; January 7, Global Times, Renmin.net, Guangming Daily; January 8, Los Angeles Times, Reuters; January 10, The Wall Street Journal)
(The Seattle Times, October 8; Xinhua News Agency, October 9; China News Service, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, The Wall Street Journal China, Radio Free Asia, October 10)