News / Asia

China Free Speech Protests Spread Online

Demonstrators call for press freedom in support of journalists from the Southern Weekend newspaper outside the company's office building in Guangzhou, south China's Guangdong province, January 8, 2013.
Demonstrators call for press freedom in support of journalists from the Southern Weekend newspaper outside the company's office building in Guangzhou, south China's Guangdong province, January 8, 2013.
VOA News
Free-speech protesters clashed with Communist party supporters in southern China on Tuesday, as a local dispute about government censorship spilled over into a nationwide online protest.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered Tuesday for a second day outside the progressive Southern Weekly in Guangzhou, where some journalists have gone on strike to protest alleged government editorial interference.

Minor scuffles broke out after activists holding signs and chanting slogans calling for media freedom were confronted by a small group of  party loyalists who waved Chinese flags and held posters of Chairman Mao.

The protesters are calling for the resignation of the provincial propaganda chief after censors last week allegedly blocked a New Year's editorial urging greater constitutional rights. The article was replaced with another praising the party's achievements.

The open protest against state censorship - the first of its kind in years - is seen as a key test for China's incoming leader Xi Jinping, who has called for the government to be more open.

Related - Chinese Paper Has Long History of Challenging Authorities

Kerry Brown, who heads the China Studies Center at the University of Sydney, says he does not expect Beijing to make any major concessions, such as dismissing the provincial propaganda official.

"If journalists were able to do that in such a key area...then they've really got a big scalp. And that will probably give the sniff of blood to others," Brown said. "I think if the party does that, it will probably be construed as a sign of weakness, and I don't think the party will be willing to pay that price at the moment."

Even though the protests outside the newspaper were relatively small Tuesday, a steady stream of Chinese celebrities, journalists and other public figures have applied pressure on Beijing by expressing their support for the paper in social media.

Related - Chinese Censorship Debate Grows Online

In an effort to limit public discussion on the matter, Chinese authorities have blocked searches for the name of the paper on the country's wildly popular microblogs. But many users were able to bypass censors by posting pictures and other cryptic messages that decried government censorship.

The government has so far not responded, and has allowed the protests to take place. But an editorial in the state-run Global Times on Tuesday said there will be no "surprise ending" to the situation, and that China is "unlikely to have an 'absolutely free media' that is dreamed of by those activists."

  • A supporter of the Southern Weekly newspaper in a wheelchair chants slogans in front of police officers near the newspaper's office in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, January 10, 2013.
  • A protester is taken away by plainclothes police officers and placed in a jeep near the office of Southern Weekly newspaper in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, January 10, 2013.
  • Leftists carrying portraits of the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong demonstrate outside the office of the liberal Southern Weekly newspaper in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, January 9, 2013.
  • Police separate a supporter of the Southern Weekly from confronting leftists protesting outside the office of the liberal newspaper in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, January 9, 2013.
  • A police officer walks past supporters of Southern Weekly demonstrating outside the office of the liberal newspaper in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, January 9, 2013.
  • Demonstrators hold banners outside the headquarters of Southern Weekly newspaper in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China, January 8, 2013.
  • Demonstrators hold banners, portraits of China's late Chairman Mao Zedong, and Chinese national flags next to police outside the headquarters of Southern Weekly newspaper, January 8, 2013.
  • A man lays a bouquet of chrysanthemums in front of the headquarters of Southern Weekly newspaper, January 7, 2013.
  • Demonstrators gather along a street near the headquarters of Southern Weekly newspaper, January 7, 2013.
  • Security guards stand near protest banners and flowers are laid outside the headquarters of Southern Weekly newspaper, January 7, 2013.

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: remie from: canada
January 10, 2013 7:03 AM
@jonathan huang,
your comments are like a grade one student. Either you just got off the boat to canada or your dumb as a door knob. Im not only talking about this comment but ALL your comment.


by: Tony from: Canada
January 09, 2013 3:07 PM
China is very strict with the speech. People would like to say it it not democratic. However, I do not think U.S. is better than it. They let you say anything and protest the government. Actually, do they change a little of U.S.? NO! Everyone can select the president in U.S. But can they select the canditates of the president? NO! The world is the same.


by: Frank Zhou from: China
January 08, 2013 11:36 PM
Maybe it's a good phenomenon for China!


by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
January 08, 2013 11:17 PM
Easy!, The southern weekly is just another communist party throat media. What happened is only an inner conflict nothing more. Stop wasting your passion. LOL
Making sure all media are under CCP control is the only way to secure the rising of China. At least, I support it. I support any thing as long as it is good for China as a country.


by: Anonymous
January 08, 2013 10:49 PM
You have no idea how nasty the censorship is.Every negative information about the government will be deleted.They won't even let their people search for keywords "communist party".What else can I
say.


by: billy bob
January 08, 2013 12:32 PM
Wait ! How are chinese citizens protesting online - I thought China controlled their Internet access ? [end sarcasm]


by: CcyY
January 08, 2013 10:31 AM
As mentioned above ,the matter of Southern Weekly is a key test for the new leaders which will be officially seated several months later.i want to cite a sentence which is always used by chinese offical media and make a little bit change about this sentence-“we have listened to what he said and will watch he does"


by: lolBisco from: USA
January 08, 2013 9:31 AM
Does anybody find it ironic that there are protesters protesting against protesters who are protesting the government for their right to protest?

In Response

by: caodatan from: asia
January 08, 2013 1:14 PM
those protester whom protest against protesters are the actors hired by Gov,you never knows what insidious ideas commie gonna come up with—they build up fortune by doing things like that.


by: jason from: dong guan city guang dong
January 08, 2013 7:19 AM
i am so sad and very dispointed to the government over the strict control to social media like nan fang zhou mo . i am strongly support people who is fighting the right of freedom on media , it is very important for both government and medial do verything under constitution .
this is jason , a man who comes from china

In Response

by: Jonathan Huang from: Canada
January 08, 2013 11:10 PM
I wonder if China is as democratic as USA, is the world really safer?
Or more countries gonna be invaded like Iraq and Afghanistan were not just by USA but also by China another Asian USA?
Just wondering, LOL

In Response

by: stentor from: US
January 08, 2013 10:12 AM
The Chinese were surprised to see Obama get a second term, and see it as democracy in action, the power of the vote. America is fixing itself and on the way to getting rid of republicans, demographically speaking. The Chinese are seeing all the anti-American rhetoric they've been fed doesn't add up. And of course, little Korea beat big ol China to global pop superstardom with Gangnam style, which has stung Chinese youth where it hurts the most. A REAL people's revolution is welling up steadily. Is this the sleeping giant Napoleon was talking about?

In Response

by: Ronald Johnson
January 08, 2013 9:26 AM
Be careful what you wish for. In the real world, 'free' means 'bought'. The free media is a business and they tell what they think will make money. How's that for the truth?

In Response

by: Anonymous
January 08, 2013 8:19 AM
Hope we see more coverage of this in the western media...it feels like that no one cares but without a democratic and progressive China, even the west will suffer.

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