Trending: Censorship protests in China
posted at 3:21 pm on January 8, 2013 by Erika Johnsen
Well, they would be trending, if the Chinese government allowed such things. Ah, the perils and difficulties of a communist regime trying to maintain legitimacy while running an autocratic plutocracy — the heart practically bleeds for them, via the WSJ:
Protests by journalists over alleged heavy-handed censorship at one of China’s most daring newspapers have garnered high-profile support in the media and blogosphere, with prominent academics, bloggers and even movie stars joining in.
The outburst has been fueled in part by expectations of change under new Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping, who has stirred up hopes since taking office in November with optimistic comments about the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
On Monday, several hundred protesters gathered outside the headquarters of the Southern Weekly newspaper in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, to vent their anger at the reworking of a New Year’s editorial that originally called for greater legal rights but ended up as a celebration of the government’s achievements.
“Abandon press censorship. Chinese people want freedom!” read a handwritten placard attached to a bouquet of flowers left in front of the main gates of the building.
Demonstrators laid bunches of chrysanthemums, a flower associated with funerals, outside the newspaper’s offices, in mock mourning for the demise of the newspaper’s hard-hitting style, photographs posted on Sina Corp.’s Weibo microblogging service showed.
Of course, there are all sorts of protests and outbursts that break out across China on the regular because of their many egregious human-rights abuses, but they often go unsubstantiated or unreported because the government crushes them and also happens to control the state-run media. This latest outbreak, however, is a protest on the very nature of the state’s media management itself, as well as a testament to the popularity of the boundary-pushing newspaper in question, not to mention the growing popularity of social media and blogging sites and the Internet in general. All of this information-sharing spreading like wildfire is a huge threat to the stability of the Chinese regime, and they are plenty aware of that uncomfortable fact — time for panic-mode?
The Chinese government’s main propaganda organ took a hard line Tuesday against anti-censorship protesters at the offices of the Guangdong newspaper Southern Weekly, declaring that Communist Party control over Chinese media is “unshakable” and accusing “external” agitators of fomenting the unrest.
The “urgent memo” from the ruling party’s Central Propaganda Department was sent to media heads and local party chiefs. It was obtained and translated by the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post and the Web site China Digital Times, which regularly publishes edicts from China’s censorship authorities and is derisively known as the Ministry of Truth.
“The party has absolute control over the media, and this principle is unshakable,” the memo said. “External hostile forces are involved in the development of the situation.” The memo added that every “work unit” must immediately “demand that its department’s editors, reporters and staff discontinue voicing support for Southern Weekly online.”