News / Asia

Chinese Paper Has Long History of Challenging Authorities

A New Year edition of Southern Weekly, center, published on January 3, 2013, is exhibited at a newsstand in Beijing, China, January 4, 2013.
A New Year edition of Southern Weekly, center, published on January 3, 2013, is exhibited at a newsstand in Beijing, China, January 4, 2013.
The influential Chinese newspaper at the center of a rare protest against government censorship has a long history of progressive and controversial reporting that has tested the limits of free speech in China's strictly controlled media environment.

The Southern Weekly is part of the larger Nanfang Media Group, which is known for its in-depth and aggressive reports on sensitive topics, such as the 2003 SARS outbreak or China's massive network of illegal detentions centers.

The controversial coverage has often landed the media group in the bad graces of Chinese propaganda officials, who have tried - with limited success - to get it to conform to their standards.

Rachel Lu, editor of Tea Leaf Nation, a website that monitors Chinese media,says the paper has undergone several purges in recent years, where staff have been fired, presumably for their reports.

"There have been incidents where editors were replaced, and they would helicopter in new people to run the paper and they helicopter in a new propaganda chief to run Guangdong (province), where the paper is based," says Lu.

She says the restrictions have been successful, but only to a certain point.

"Some would say it's definitely been reined in a little bit. But it has basically retained that flavor, that sort of liberal bend, even throughout all these years where the government tries to restrain its coverage and angle," she says.

One of the most famous incidents came in 2003, when one of the group's editors published an investigation into the death of a young worker who died in police custody after being beaten.

The story led to the discovery of a vast network of underground police detention camps - a revelation that embarrassed Beijing. It also resulted in the detention of Cheng Yizhong, the editor who published the investigation.

Chinese propaganda officials have also tried pre-publication censorship to silence the newspaper. The Southern Weekly said in a recent statement that over 1,000 articles were censored to some degree in 2012 alone.

In the most recent case, editors say state censors replaced an editorial calling for greater constitutional rights with one that praised the accomplishments of the Communist Party.

The government has so far not responded to the incident, which has prompted two days of small protests outside the Southern Weekly, as well as messages of support from a wide array of Chinese celebrities and public figures.

Related - Chinese Continue Protest Against Media Censorship

A Tuesday editorial in the state-run Southern Weekly insisted the paper's editors, not state censors, were responsible for the publication of the editorial in the Southern Weekly. It accused "external activists," including the exiled blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng, of inciting the controversy.

But Michael Anti, a prominent journalist and commentator on Chinese social media, says the issue is being driven by journalists who are upset with government meddling and by a general public who wants to know the truth, not by outside forces.

"Of course not. There is no evidence to say that. It is definitely just an excuse. The funny thing is, they even use a blind lawyer in New York City as a scapegoat. I think it's just a joke," Anti says.

Observers say they expect the Southern Weekly, which has a circulation of 1.6 million copies that are spread across China every week, to remain influential among China's intellectuals and progressives, noting that this week's controversy has done little to curb its influence.

  • 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.

You May Like

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: GOOD from: The world
January 18, 2013 10:17 PM
Good for China. Good for United States.

by: fuche
January 14, 2013 10:50 AM
In my opinion, southern weekly event was a totally ridiculous performance. The actors are both editors from southern weekly and GuangZhou government. In other words, southern weekly couldn't stand for the voice from democracy. In China, the issues are very complex, and even these protesters don't know what the problem is.

by: Charlie from: Shenzhen
January 10, 2013 1:50 AM
I am wondering what reasons there are to support and miss Mao zhedong, dozens of people died under his dictatorship ruling, an evil regime was established by him that has been suffering the ordinary people for decades
In Response

by: Charlie from: China
January 23, 2013 8:31 PM
to 王, I think you are either brain washed or a government wumao, what you said is just insulting the intelligence of the human being, what Mao zhedong was and what he had done are known by the whole world, an evil dictator
In Response

by: from: Shan Dong
January 18, 2013 5:40 AM
Are you a real chinese people? Mao zhedong was the father of our country,he give us the future.
In Response

by: Wangchuk from: NYC
January 11, 2013 10:37 AM
Some of those Mao supporters are likely govt or Party agents sent there as counter-protestors. The Party frequently uses CCP members to stage fake counter-protests or protests in support of the Party. Whenever Hu Jintao visited the US, the Chinese Embassy sent staff to "welcome" him and paid overseas Chinese living in the US to come out & great him waiving giant red flags. They usually get $25 plus a free lunch & are sent in buses to wherever Hu Jintao might be.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More