For the first time in more than 20 years, according to SCMP, a major newspapers’s editorial staff in China has gone on strike to protest government censorship.
They were on the streets this afternoon in Guangzhou, outside Southern Weekly’s offices, scattering chrysanthemums and other flowers, periodically chanting for democracy and human rights. It’s been basically peaceful and without incident. The best place to follow all the proceedings is at John Kennedy’s Twitter and live-blog for SCMP.
David Bandurski, who has also been closely following the incident, calls it “without a doubt one of the most important we will witness in China this year.”
But is this really a watershed moment for media rights in China, as some hope, or merely a campaign to remove one official, Tuo Zhen? That is to say, even if Tuo resigns as provincial minister of propaganda, what is our expectation that the next guy will be better? Will Southern Weekly be allowed a seat at the hiring table? What systemic change in procedure or oversight will placate our desire for “reform”? Has this become an issue of free speech, riding the swell of excitement of everyday people mingling with journalists on the streets, or will we return to our jobs soon and let the more vested parties enter negotiations on the future of both Tuo Zhen and Southern Weekly?
While we’re on the subject, let’s not forget about the liberal magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu, whose website was shut down on Friday (officials say because its registration ran out, and not at all due to its latest cover story on constitutional reform). Ian Johnson offers some perspective on NY Times:
Optimists say they hope the measures against the two publications were the result of recalcitrant officials appointed by the departing team of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, whose decade in power was marked by an overriding desire for stability. Many members of Mr. Xi’s team will not take office until the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress in March, and it could take years for Mr. Xi to put allies into important positions of power.
“If Xi does not remove people and promote some officials, his new policies — if he has any — will be sunk by the old people,” said a senior editor at a top party newspaper who asked to remain anonymous because of the delicacy of the subject. “The conflicts between the old and the new have just emerged.”
Outgoing leaders doing all they can – all they can — to make sure their legacy isn’t tarnished in these next three months, before Xi Jinping officially takes the helm and undos all the damage of the past 10 years?
(The above image is via China Digital Times.) POSTSCRIPT, via SCMP:
Related: Southern Weekly Update: Speeches, Scuffles, Chen Guangcheng, And Acrostics (1/8, 2:51 pm)