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Beijing News Chief Steps Down Amid Censorship Row

By Jack Phillips
Epoch Times Staff
Created: January 9, 2013 Last Updated: January 13, 2013
Related articles: China » Democracy & Human Rights
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Police look on as a man (R) protests as a group of people calls for greater media freedom outside the headquarters of Nanfang Media Group in Guangzhou on Jan. 9, 2013. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Police look on as a man (R) protests as a group of people calls for greater media freedom outside the headquarters of Nanfang Media Group in Guangzhou on Jan. 9, 2013. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

The publisher of the Beijing News resigned on Wednesday after the publication was forced to print an editorial produced by the state-run Global Times that criticized staff of the Southern Weekly for resisting Communist Party censorship.

The resignation of Dai Zigeng, the publisher of the News, and also a Communist Party official, was reported by the South China Morning Post’s John Kennedy, who covered extensively the Southern Weekly’s protests. He cited several statements made by the publication and its journalists.

The Global Times editorial blamed the strike against censorship on “foreign forces.” A number of Chinese publications were told to reprint the editorial, according to the Morning Post. Only a few newspapers agreed to it.

Chinese bloggers heavily criticized the Global Times editorial this week. One Sina Weibo user described the Times as a “good dog” that only follows the orders of Communist Party officials, according to Hong Kong University’s China Media Project. 

The censorship row that hit the Southern Weekly was sparked after a local Guangzhou Communist Party propaganda official rewrote the paper’s New Year’s greeting to praise the Communist Party and cut out calls for political reform. The paper’s journalists were unhappy with the newspaper management’s response and went on strike, calling for the firing of the propaganda official. 

Earlier this week, protesters gathered in front of the Weekly’s headquarters and called for an end to Communist Party-mandated censorship. Chinese microbloggers made similar statements, which have since been deleted by censors.  

Running the Global Times editorial on Jan. 8 prompted “cries of despair and anger” from Beijing News editorial staff after they learned it had to publish the piece, Kennedy writes. 

Online accounts said that Communist Party propaganda chief Liu Qibao told the newspaper to print the editorial, while other officials claimed they would “dissolve the newspaper” if it did not go ahead with the plan, reported the Daily Telegraph.

According to New York-based New Tang Dynasty Television, the paper then agreed to publishing it, after which time Dai resigned. 

In 2011, the Beijing News and the Beijing Times were both put under the direct administration of Beijing’s municipal propaganda department, according to the China Media Project at the the University of Hong Kong, which had the effect of more strongly restricting their content.

On Tuesday, editors and journalists with the Southern Weekly agreed to return to work if local officials reduce some of their controls over the press.

chinareports@epochtimes.com

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