Tue, Jan 08, 2013 - Page 1 News List

Chinese protest over news censorship

FREEDOM OF SPEECH:Taiwanese are closely watching the rare development in Guangzhou, amid fears of increasing Chinese influence over Taiwanese media

Agencies, BEIJING, and J. Michael Cole, Staff reporter

The media would “undoubtedly be a loser” if it sought to fight the government, it said.

The commentary did not run in the paper’s English-language edition.

The editiorial followed an open letter from Southern Weekly staff which — in an unusually vocal response to authorities’ censorship — called for the resignation of Guangdong provincial propaganda official Tuo Zhen (庹震), who was said to have removed the weekly’s article and replaced it with a different version.

Eighteen Chinese academics, including legal professors, economists, historians and writers, have also signed an open letter calling for Tuo’s dismissal. Peking University law professor He Weifang (賀衛方), who was among the signers, said the newspaper needed to be defended from censorship.

“The Southern Weekly is known as a newspaper that exposes the truth, but after Tuo Zhen arrived in Guangdong, he constantly put pressure on the paper. We need to let him know that he can’t do this,” He said. “This incident is a test to see if the new leadership is determined to push trhough political reforms.”

Yesterday’s protests also took on a Taiwanese element, with calls for the singing of a song that decades ago served as a clarion call for the democratic movement in Taiwan.

According to posts on microblogging site Sina Weibo, organizers have invited supporters to gather at Guangzhou Parkway at noon tomorrow to show their support by singing the song Beautiful Island (美麗島), one of the key inspirational songs used by the pro-democracy movement in Taiwan during authoritarian rule.

The Chinese authorities prohibited the song in 1980.

Taiwanese youths were also paying attention to what was happening in Guangzhou.

Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆), one of the student leaders in the recent wave of Taiwanese protests against the monopolization of and growing Chinese influence in local media, told the Taipei Times that the movement was closely watching developments surrounding the Southern Weekly incident.

Lin said that although there was no direct link between the student those who signed the petition at the Chinese universities on Sunday, he hoped that both sides could inspire and learn from each other.

“No matter what, the movements from both sides will serve as an inspiration for one another,” he said.

Lin also said the Chinese had an interest in ensuring that freedoms in Taiwan were not undermined by Beijing’s influence.

“Although Taiwan enjoys freedom of the press and democracy, they are weakening at the moment. As they fight for their own freedom, Chinese students should seek to prevent this from occurring in Taiwan,” he said.

“Chinese students are very brave in fighting despite being under very strict government control,” he said, adding that state control over the media and limits to freedom were much more stringent in China.

Lin said he hoped that Chinese would continue to fight for their rights and that people who desire freedom would unite.

“Taiwanese students will support them, always,” he said.

Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said the council was paying attention to the issue of press freedom in China and had invited Chinese journalists to visit Taiwan, adding that the council hoped they would be influenced by the country’s freedoms.

Additional reporting by Shelley Shan

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