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

    Water Scarcity Could Push Conflict, Migration by 2050

    Warning comes in a new report from the World Bank titled "High and Dry: Climate Change, Water and the Economy"

    What Your First Name Says About Who You Support for President

    Bobby, Betty and Curtis tend to support Donald Trump while people named Juan, Liz or Mohammad are more likely to lean toward Hillary Clinton

    South Pole Diary: In Round-the-clock Darkness, Radiant Moon Shines Like the Sun

    You hear more and see more when the moon first comes out; it’s your senses in overdrive, tuning into a new world.

    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.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora