01/08/2013, 00.00
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Southern Weekend protest, a challenge for Xi Jinping

The weekly's journalists, who turned against government censorship, are on strike backed by ordinary Chinese, other papers and even a movie star. China's new leaders must now choose between reform or (again) crackdown.

Guangzhou (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Journalists at the Southern Weekly, one of China's most important and respected weeklies, are still on strike for freedom of the press and freedom of expression. Their action was caused by a New Year editorial censored by the Communist party propaganda department. After two open letters and a tug-of-war with the authorities, the journalists pledged not to go back to work until the truth is told.

Thousands of people have gathered in front of the newspaper's headquarters in the provincial capital of Guangzhou, silently and peacefully calling on the government to allow "truth and justice".

Some readers spoke to Hong Kong media. "Southern Weekend has informed me a lot as a reader," said one. "I hope we can all lend them some strength, even if just a little, and help it carry on."

Led by Xi Jinping, who will take over in March, China's new leadership is now having to cope with strikes and protests.

As some analysts have pointed out, Xi has tried to portray himself as a reformer but has done very little.

The stance taken by Southern Weekend journalists has proven popular with ordinary Chinese as well as other government newspapers and even Yao Chen, a movie star with a 31.8 million-strong fan base.

This will force Xi to make a decision to either back Tuo Zhen, Guangdong propaganda chief, or the journalists, who want radical changes to the country's censorship and propaganda laws.

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