Publisher of Shuttered Liberal Magazine Says Censorship Not Work of Xi Jinping

By Larry Ong
Larry Ong
Larry Ong
Larry Ong is a New York-based journalist with Epoch Times. He writes about China and Hong Kong. He is also a graduate of the National University of Singapore, where he read history.
July 22, 2016 Updated: July 29, 2016

The siege of the liberal historical publication Yanhuang Chunqiu came so suddenly and efficiently—the invaders hauled in suitcases to assist in their takeover—that the venerable founding publisher Du Daozheng believes the stunt couldn’t have been the handiwork of communist leader Xi Jinping.

“The situation is fairly grim, but going by the swift and decisive action by the people involved, I believe that this is absolutely not the doing of the Xi Jinping leadership, and is also not the work of the China Academy of Art work unit,” Du, 92, told respected Hong Kong magazine Yazhou Zhoukan on July 15.

On July 19, Du discontinued the quarter century-old Yanhuang Chunqiu, a monthly journal that carried political and historical articles with a reformist bent, in response to the July 13 takeover from its official sponsor, the China Academy of Art.

The academy had removed Du as publisher and demoted the publication’s chief editor Xu Qingquan before storming its Beijing office. The journal plans to take legal action if the academy refuses to end the coup.

In an interview overseas Chinese media Duowei News, Du said: “I guess that the decision to replace Yanhuang Chunqiu’s leadership came from the level between the Party leadership and the research academy.” Du has been in hospital after suffering high blood pressure following the death of his wife last month. “This is taking advantage of a crisis to launch an attack,” he told DW, soon after he returned home to find his magazine besieged.

Yazhou Zhoukan does not report what alternative explanation Du offers. But his faith in Xi could stem from the Party leader’s show of support to the journal last year, when pressure from propaganda officials led to a leadership shakeup at the publication.

According to Radio France Internationale, after some Party elders called Xi’s attention to the adversity they were facing, Xi gave instructions that the journal “shouldn’t be blocked,” and be “properly guided” instead—an anecdote Li Rui, Yanhuang Chunqiu’s advisor and former secretary to Mao Zedong, had revealed “not without pride” in multiple settings, RFI reports.

Xi Zhongxun, the father of Xi Jinping, had also backed Yanhuang Chunqiu—the January 2001 edition held a dedication, “Yanhuang Chunqiu is pretty decent,” in the handwriting of the elder Xi.  

Though the latest assault on the publication came in a long line of encroachments, giving every impression that it was premeditated, and not a spur-of-the-moment decision, there is a credible alternate theory.

Xin Ziling, for instance, a retired Chinese defense official with connections to moderate Party elites, believes that it is the Central Propaganda Department, not Xi, that is behind the takeover.

“The Propaganda Department is dishing out punishment … this matter is really abnormal,” Xin told Epoch Times. “I believe that this is absolutely not Xi Jinping’s idea; it doesn’t stem from Xi Jinping’s line.”

The Propaganda Department, under the ultimate leadership of Politburo Standing Committee member Liu Yunshan, has appeared out of sync with Xi Jinping’s directives on several occasions this year, and has even been accused of engaging in dirty tricks to smear Xi, according to Chinese analysts.

Liu is known to be a long-term ally of former Party leader Jiang Zemin, whose own loyalists have been heavily targeted by Xi Jinping in his purge of the Party under the guise of an anti-corruption campaign.

“The focus point of China today is the anti-corruption campaign and the resolving of the problems caused by Jiang Zemin and Zeng Qinghong,” Xin said. Zeng Qinghong is the former vice chairman of the regime and Jiang’s longtime political hitman.

Xin, and others who share his analysis, see Xi Jinping not as a power-hungry dictator, but instead a leader of some aspiration who is now simply engaged in an attempt to gain power over the apparatus that he is the nominal head of.

Xin continued: “So there’s a force acting on internal and external affairs that’s constantly trying to reverse the general direction of things,” a reference to what he sees as the obstructionist role of the former potentates. “Everybody should be reminded of this matter.”

Luo Ya and Qin Yue contributed to this article.

Larry Ong
Larry Ong is a New York-based journalist with Epoch Times. He writes about China and Hong Kong. He is also a graduate of the National University of Singapore, where he read history.