"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with
power to endanger the public liberty." - - - - John Adams

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Communists crack down on free speech

We want freedom of speech
Demonstrators gather outside the headquarters of Southern Weekly, a liberal-leaning newspaper, in Guangzhou on Monday. The newspaper's reporters claim its New Year's Day letter originally called for a constitutional government but was replaced with high praise for the Communist Party. Monday's protest marks a rare stand against censorship amidst escalating pressure on the government to increase press freedom.

Chinese Communist Party steps up censorship of newspapers and the Internet

  • Chinese people speak out for freedom . . . US is silent.
  • Communist thugs confront demonstrators.

In a rare show of defiance to China’s censors, news organizations around the country rallied behind colleagues at the maverick Southern Weekly who are threatening to strike over press censorship.

At least four prominent newspapers disobeyed orders on Tuesday to publish an editorial attacking the Southern Weekly journalists. Others published the editorial with a disclaimer saying it did not represent their views. News portals artfully arranged headlines so that the first Chinese character in each line spelled messages like “Go Southern Weekly!" reports the Los Angeles Times.

Shouting matches broke out Tuesday between hardliners carrying photographs of Mao Tse-tung and free speech advocates who demonstrated for a second day outside the newspaper’s headquarters in Guangzhou, the capital of China’s prosperous and relatively free-wheeling southern Guangdong province.

Demonstrators for a free press gather outside the Southern
Weekly newspaper headquarters in Guangzhou,
Guangdong province. (Photograph: Reuters)

“Pro-reform people had high hopes for Xi Jinping and they are trying to test the waters,’’ said Ding Xueliang, a professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. “But I don’t think the new leadership will allow the protests to become much bigger at street level because then it will become a stability issue.”

In a sign of the rising panic in Beijing, propaganda officials late Monday ordered evening newspapers to publish a harsh editorial from the Communist Party-run Global Times condemning the Southern Weekly journalists.

At least four major newspapers, including two big-city dailies, the Beijing News and Shanghai Morning Post, declined to run the mandatory editorial. Many other newspapers placed the editorial Tuesday in their news pages rather than opinion — a subtle way of distancing themselves from the message.

The standoff began over a front-page new year’s editorial published Jan. 3 that originally called for constitutional reforms, but was rewritten by the provincial propaganda chief as a bland message of congratulation over China’s achievements. The journalists have demanded the resignation of the official, Tuo Zhen, and have threatened not to publish the next issue of the weekly newspaper, to be released Thursday.

China newspaper censorship 
Journalists at a leading Chinese newspaper have gone on strike in a dispute over press freedom.

Southern Weekly Editors Take on Chinese Censors

The issue has erupted on China's Internet Twitter-like Weibo. Li Chengpeng, a writer and social critic has more than six million followers, wrote that Tuo Zhen's actions are no different than burning a newspaper.

But censors have also stepped in. "Southern Weekly" is already a blocked term on Weibo. Several of the magazine's staff also say their accounts have been locked.

Communists attack Freedom of the Press
Signs included “Support the Communist Party!” “Support Chairman Mao’s Theories!” “Crack down on Traitor Media!’’

Outside the newspaper offices, protests on Tuesday had dwindled to a few dozen people with opposing camps trading insults and at one point scuffling with their fists.

“Support the Communist Party!” “Support Chairman Mao’s Theories!” “Crack down on Traitor Media!’’ read some of the banners, while free speech advocates denounced their critics as part of the “fifty-cent party”—a term for bloggers who are paid small amounts of money for pro-government posts.

“I believe in democracy. I want to fight for freedom of speech,” shouted a 24-year-old activist who gave his name as Yang Fengchu. “Without Southern Weekly, there is nobody to oversee the government.”

The noise was louder on the Internet, where celebrities, actors, musicians, academics and writers sent out words of encouragement to millions of followers.

“We don’t need tall buildings, but we need a newspaper that speaks the truth. We don’t need the second highest GDP in the world, but we need a newspaper that speaks the truth. We don’t need a fleet of aircraft carriers, but we need a newspaper that speaks the truth,” wrote one of China’s most famous bloggers, Li Chengpeng.

(Los Angeles Times)

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