Chinese Magazine Resists Regime’s Media Censors

November 24, 2010 8:36 pm Last Updated: November 24, 2010 8:37 pm

An outspoken magazine founded by a group of old party cadres was recently put on notice by Chinese authorities.

The privately funded monthly, China Through the Ages (Yan Huang Chun Qiu), was founded in 1991 and is known for reporting on sensitive issues, and for being “an eager voice of independent thinking.”

Recently, officials from the General Administration of Press and Publication and from the Ministry of Culture have demanded that the magazine make some reforms. They demanded that the aging president be “retired,” that “forbidden” articles be removed from recent issues, and that top management should “take actions and adopt specific measures”—a form of Chinese communist bureaucratese that means people should respond to instructions.

Wu Si, legal representative, managing director, and chief editor of the monthly talked to Hong Kong’s Ming Pao Daily about the publication’s latest difficulties.

Wu told Ming Pao he does not want to see Du Daozheng, the magazine’s 87-year-old founder, retire. Du has been a Party member for 73 years and was the Bureau Chief of the Guangdong Xinhua News Agency and Director of General Administration of Press and Publication. Du had a close relationship with former Chinese Communist Party secretary general and former premier Zhao Ziyang, and wrote the book, “What Else did Zhao Ziyang Say?” which he published in January 2010 in Hong Kong and Taiwan. (Zhao was ousted for not taking a hard enough line against the 1989 Tiananmen Square student demonstrators.)

The magazine’s website has also experienced a series of shutdowns and hackings recently, which Wu attributes to the authorities.

Since its inception the magazine has been censured more than ten times for reporting sensitive historical facts and promoting party dissidence and reform.

In November 2005, while the regime held its first public commemoration of former pro-reform Secretary General Hu Yaobang, China Through the Ages published a feature article called “Hu Yaobang in Our Hearts.” The magazine was subsequently criticized by the Central Propaganda Department, and the issue was recalled, but later redistributed, according to a July 12 article by Ming Pao Daily.

In 2008, the magazine was reprimanded for reporting on Zhao Ziyang. Wu told the BBC at the time that the Ministry of Culture suggested that the magazine’s founder, Du Daozheng, retire based on his old age. The magazine politely declined.

As early as 1997 China enacted laws and regulation for magazine publication, requiring that “important topics” be submitted for approval. Wu said though the magazine is willing to comply, authorities have never specified what it considers an important topic. Moreover, articles submitted by China Through the Ages last November were not returned until this April. He said this sort of thing has happened all the while, making it extremely difficult to run the magazine.

“If we are not allowed to speak, there’s no point in running the magazine,” Wu said.

The magazine’s distribution has been growing from its initial circulation of 40,000, to over 120,000 now, according to Hong Kong’s Asia Weekly. The magazine can be found in many newspaper stands in Beijing and is especially popular among old party cadres and intellectuals.