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:
Previously: Journalists Are Threatening Boycotts, Calling For Protests Over Southern Weekly Incident
Related: Southern Weekly Update: Speeches, Scuffles, Chen Guangcheng, And Acrostics (1/8, 2:51 pm)
My call: the gov’t will ride out the protests, squash online info about this, capitulate when this becomes not international news but domestic news, scapegoat that one guy by some scandalous info about his that somehow “got released”, some new stooge will get in, he’ll be all low-key until people get bored of him, and then this whole thing will happen again.
Nothing will change. I’m more excited about the next Downton Abbey season.
I’m really glad someone wrote this comment! If anything, we need more cynicism. That is seriously underrepresented here.
I am glad that somebody out there is sharing my pessimism when it comes to Chinese obtaining real right of freedom of speech; more importantly I am thrilled this same person is sharing my taste for Downton Abbey! LOL
Sorry, one more thing: please more pics of hot chicks with “add oil” signs. This one is okay but more defiant than cute. Whatever happens, at least we’ll have “Chive ON!” with Chinese characteristics.
This totally blows the lid off the idea that this is just censorship. Its not, and that’s the problem. Its not censorship but total control.
Censors should read the copy the editors have finalized and remove certain parts or ask for changes. Everything could well be done in an orderly way, i.e. the newspaper delivers the copy on Thursday for instance and the censors can return by Saturday.
But look at how this went down. The censors just show up at your office at the last second, and personally make whatever changes they want. That’s not mere censorship.
Certainly the government can and does require Southern Weekend to print government approved articles from time to time, but that’s not what happened here. Here, this one guy just gets to do whatever he wants. He inserts an article written by his dense minions, and then, when they complain, he orders them to turn over their weibo account password. Just censorship?
The best part of it to me is the fake weibo he made saying, oh, nothing was unusual about the new year’s edition, all those rumors online are fake. Haha what a bald-faced lie, and of course quickly shown to be a lie.
One day, all the lunk-headed and venial propaganda departments across this country will be baleted, and that will be a great day.