By REBECCA FERNANDEZ
Tensions are flaring between China’s journalists and government officials after the Southern Weekend newspaper took a stand against government censorship. Recent protests against the nation’s long-standing government involvement in the press launched what many are referring to as the Beijing News incident.
It all began when the New Year’s issue of a Guangdong province newspaper, Southern Weekend, printed a piece by the local propaganda minister that ran without the knowledge of any of the editors. This was the final straw for several of the newspaper’s employees who, up to that point, had been obeying China’s censorship laws by not running pieces that the government had asked them to pull from print.
Southern Weekend’s fed-up editors publicly spoke out on Chinese microblogging site Weibo, claiming that the article allegedly written by Tuo Zhen, a provincial-level official, was “raping” the newspaper’s independence. The post went viral and was eventually taken down, but that hasn’t stopped a flow of criticism against China’s censorship laws.
The most recent backlash occurred when officials answered Southern Weekend’s plea for less government involvement with increased censorship and additional propaganda.
Another article was written, however. It was not as easy for officials to get news outlets to run the article this time around. Officials issued an order to several newspapers nationwide to run the article Tuesday, but only a handful followed through. However, newspapers like the Beijing News, who chose not to run it on Tuesday, were forced to do so the following day. The Beijing News did not give in easily and caved only when authorities physically arrived at its offices.
What really happened at the Beijing News office is still unclear, but several posts on Twitter said that the Weibo accounts of Beijing News employees were all deleted. Alleged photos of a chaotic Beijing News newsroom also made its way through Twitter.
One Beijing News employee, who chose to remain anonymous, confirmed that there was a meeting of administrative-level employees Wednesday morning.
If Dai’s resignation is confirmed, this will likely be the most defiant act a newspaper leader has taken in response to the recent Southern Weekend situation.
Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, has blocked all chatter on the Southern Weekend situation, as well as of the Beijing News incident, but that has not stopped Chinese sources from getting the news out.