08/18/2016, 14.36
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Chinese journalists ousted from maverick magazine sue government

Senior editors at Yanhuang Chunqiu are suing the authorities that seized their magazine and published a fake issue. The matter is sensitive because the publication is loyal to the Communist party, the real one, not Xi Jinping’s.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Journalists ousted from Yanhuang Chunqiu, a history magazine, are suing the Ministry of Culture, which seized the publication in July 2016 and printed a fake issue this month.

The seven senior editors of the magazine, whose title can be loosely translated as ‘China through the ages’, are all descendants of early Communist leaders. Their journal is loyal to the values of the Communist Party, to the real party, not the current one.

Outside the courthouse where the case was filed, deputy editor Wang Yanjun held a copy of what he called the “fake” August issue put out by the Ministry of Culture and decried its new editorial direction.

The magazine’s new bosses convened a meeting this week that sought contributions from well-known neo-Maoist and nationalist writers that horrified the old guard, he said.

Wang said that he and his colleagues were also suing the two new editors, Hao Qingjun and Jia Leilei, demanding they return the magazine to its former staff and saying its current operations were illegal.

“They hijacked our official website, cracked the password, and are publishing their own illegal views there,” Wang said.

The Chinese National Academy of Arts, which is technically in charge of the magazine, did not answer calls.

Founded in 1991 by senior members of the Communist Party’s liberal wing, Yanhuang Chunqiu examined sensitive historical periods such as the Cultural Revolution and Maoist campaigns.

The magazine has clashed with censors on numerous occasions but has survived until now, thanks to behind-the-scenes support from its sympathisers, including high-ranking military officials.

The last case concerned an article that questioned the veracity of a story of the war against the Japanese.

According to popular belief, five Communist soldiers chose to jump off a cliff rather than surrender to the enemy. Two survived to fight on.

Hong Zhenkuai, author of a critical appraisal of the case, collected evidence showing that the story was mostly invented. Sued, he lost the case against the soldiers’ descendants. However, he said he would not apologise and that he had defamed nobody.

Du Daozheng, the 93-year-old founder and director of the magazine, was himself a card-carrying member of the Party for almost eight decades and was, for a long time, a senior editor at Xinhua, the state-run news agency.

One of the magazine's senior editors, Hu Dehua, is himself the son of another reform-minded former leader, Hu Yaobang (whose death sparked popular protests that led to the Tiananmen Square massacre).

In recent years, the publication boasted a readership of some 200,000 a month.

"I had high expectations for Xi Jinping," Mr Du told the BBC.

"But in general I think he is going backwards. The consequences of this clampdown is not only about our magazine but it will harm the party and the country."

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