Beijing (AsiaNews) - The editorial staff of the Southern Weekend and thousands of ordinary people decided this morning to openly protest in front of the headquarters of the newspaper office to against censorship and propaganda imposed by the Communist Party. The paper is at the center of a controversy that threatens to ignite the nation: after more than 20 years, a group of "official" journalists have rebelled against the regime and called for "truth and freedom of speech."
The event was held in Guangzhou,
capital of the rich southern province of Guangdong and headquarters of the
newspaper. One of the slogans shouted read: "We want freedom of the press,
we want to constitutional rights, we want democracy." The provincial
police was present on the site but did not intervene except for some skirmishes
with the demonstrators.
Many of those present waved yellow chrysanthemums to symbolize the death of press freedom, but also to show the countless - like the flower petals - support for the journalists (see photo). The fact that the demonstration was tolerated shows how the provincial government - which has recently taken the lead in the rising star of the party Hu Chunhua - do not want to suppress the protests against censorship with force. Chinese circles for reform have been calling for a revision of the law on censorship and are waiting for the new leader Xi Jinping to show a greater openness.
The decision to strike and to
demonstrate was taken after a long standoff with the editor of the Southern
Weekend, considered one of the most reliable newspapers in the whole of China,
and the Communist authorities about increasing censorship of journalists. By
tradition, the first day of the New Year newspaper offer readers a series of
articles on the prospects of the new year: one of the journalists Su Yongtong,
had prepared an editorial for the issue. The title was "The dream of
China, the dream of constitutionalism", which stated that the Chinese
could hope to realize their dreams if the constitution was really implemented.
But one day before publication, the provincial chief of propaganda Tuo Zhen (who is also vice president of Xinhua) forced the newspaper to put another editorial in its place, titled "Pursuing dreams", which says that the people China are closer than ever in achieving their dreams thanks to the painstaking efforts of the Party.
The administration of the newspaper
tried to hide the truth and wrote on the official blog of the newspaper that
"there was no censorship". But reporters, using a new microblog,
fought back: "The statement on the official website does not represent the
opinion of the editorial staff. It is the result of pressure imposed by
administrative authorities on the editor. Editorial staff will fight against
this falsehood: until the issue remains unresolved, we will not work. " Although
this ad was removed by the Party "firewall".
Immediately after this censorship journalists re-posted two open letters published in recent days on the internet to expose the truth and demand the removal of Tuo Zhen: the latter (ironically born as a front line journalist) first promised an investigation into the incident, but then chose the easiest way out and censured the micro-blogs of the rebellious journalists. The letters - presented as petitions - are signed by high profile figures in the academic field as Mao Yushi, Zhang Sizhi and He Weifang.
The text reads: "After two
days of our request for a formal investigation into the incident, not only has
nothing been clarified, but more and more people demanding the truth have been
silenced. But the episode of January 1st has been like a fuse
detonator: we are faced with unjustifiable censure, the murder of articles and
pages of newspaper. " The text explains that "more than a thousand articles"
were censored or rewritten last year.
Another factor to note is the support received from other state media. Although many have remained silent on the direct orders from Beijing, the China Business News published an editorial that defines the issue "a test to assess the ability of the government of this leadership." The conflict between the authorities and the public of Guangdong, we read, "highlights an increasingly important issue: the time has come to review and reform our political control of the media."