The issues raised by the censorship of Southern Weekly, a liberal newspaper in Guangdong Province, continue to gain attention in China. On Jan. 10, Hong Kong’s iSunAffairs Weekly published an article titled “Counterattack the Propaganda Department,” detailing how Southern Weekly publicly challenged the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Propaganda Department and revealed its mode of operation.
The article, written by the iSunAffairs Weekly editor Chang Ping, who was previously fired by the Southern Newspaper Group due to the dislike some Party officials took to his writings, said: “In its managerial role, the propaganda department naturally creates friction with the media, but this friction was different from that between managing and being managed, because the propaganda department’s power has two characteristics: being unchecked and filled with dark secrets.”
He continued: “The propaganda departments every day issue banned topics, ranging from international politics to business grudges, to the media, and some are quite ridiculous. However, there are no mechanisms, even inside the CCP, to restrain and correct their actions, and thus, the propaganda department’s power became absolute. Most of the resolutions and mandates of the administrative agencies are available in the pubic record, but the bans issued by propaganda departments are treated as state secrets to be protected, and they increasingly tend not to leave records.”
Chang Ping noted that it’s normal for other institutions’ power to be challenged, management to be questioned, and instructions to be resisted, because those who do not comply can appeal to higher authorities, media, or to the courts. But the way the propaganda system is set up makes that process much more difficult.
Continuing, Chang Ping wrote: “The powers of the propaganda departments have no limit and there are no rules for their work. Under this circumstance, the propaganda minister’s personal knowledge and interest played a very important role. Some local propaganda departments were led to be somewhat open, and even thought that they had the responsibility to promote a more modern civilization.
“But some propaganda departments make room for those who seek power; therefore, not only has the department itself become corrupt, but also allowed others to be corrupt. Many famous domestic scholars have done ‘dirty work,’ becoming willing tools for the propaganda departments. I myself also received the propaganda minister’s invitation to ‘join’ and was told that benefits are guaranteed.
“Being an unrestrained power that operates in the shadows, the propaganda departments’ corruption is impossible to expose. Although there were a lot of rumors around, it could only stay at the level of speculation, and not be made public.”
Chang Ping also discussed the Southern Weekly incident, writing: “The Southern Weekly staff’s collective action not only openly challenged the powers of the propaganda departments, but also cracked open the propaganda departments’ dark secrets by engaging in ‘in-depth investigation and publishing the truth.’”
“This is the boycott’s significance that I value the most. Information behind the scenes was disclosed, and everyone could know about media censorship and public opinion control in China, and to what a ridiculous extent they have reached. Those who cherish their right to know, those who are unwilling to be brainwashed, and those who support freedom of speech, should cry out in protest.”
Hong Kong’s iSunAffairs Weekly has connections to some actors in Chinese politics. The president of its online political journal, Chen Ping, was a scholar at a regime-affiliated think-tank in his earlier years, and has a longstanding friendship with Hu Deping, the eldest son of the late reformist-minded, former Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang.During the period of time that Xi Jinping went missing before the 18th Party Congress in November last year, iSunAffairs reported a series of exclusive articles that appeared to many observers to have the backing of Xi’s camp. Some analysts suspect that the recent piece by Chang Ping may also have had Xi’s tacit blessing.
Read the original Chinese article.
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