with Censors Sparks Protests
The Washington Post
A dispute over censorship at a Chinese newspaper known for edgy reporting evolved Monday into a political challenge for China's new leadership as prominent scholars demanded a censor's dismissal and hundreds of protesters called for democratic reforms.
The scholars and protesters were acting in support of the Southern Weekly in its confrontation with a top censor after the publication was forced to change a New Year's editorial calling for political reform into a tribute praising the ruling Communist Party. Rumors circulated that at least one of the newspaper's news departments was going on strike, but they could not be immediately confirmed.
Protesters, including middle school students and white-collar workers, gathered outside the offices of the newspaper in the southern city of Guangzhou to lay flowers at the gate, hold signs and shout slogans calling for freedom of speech, political reform, constitutional governance and democracy...
Political expression in the public sphere is often viewed as risky in China, where the authoritarian government frequently harasses and even jails dissidents for pro-democracy calls...
The protest came as 18 Chinese academics signed an open letter calling for the dismissal of Tuo Zhen, a provincial propaganda minister blamed for the censorship. The scholars included legal professors, liberal economists, historians and writers.
Peking University law professor He Weifang, who was among the signers, said the newspaper's good work needed to be defended from censorship.
"Southern Weekly is known as a newspaper that exposes the truth, but after Tuo Zhen arrived in Guangdong, he constantly pressured the paper. We need to let him know that he can't do this," He said. "This incident is a test to see if the new leadership is determined to push political reform."
Six weeks ago, China installed a new generation of Communist Party leaders for the next five years, with current Vice President Xi Jinping at the helm. Some of Xi's announcements for a trimmed-down style of leadership, with reduced waste and fewer unnecessary meetings, have raised hopes in some quarters that he might favor deeper reforms in the political system to mollify a public long frustrated by local corruption.
The Guangdong provincial propaganda department did not immediately respond to a faxed list of questions. But the Communist Party-run Global Times newspaper said in an editorial that no Chinese media outlet should fool itself into thinking that it could occupy a "political special zone" in which it is free from government control.
READ FULL SOURCE ARTICLE: 01/07/2013
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