Wed, Jan 09, 2013 - Page 1 News List

Free speech, media vital to reform in China, Su says

By Chris Wang  /  Staff reporter

There will never be real reform in China unless there is freedom of speech and of the press, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said yesterday, amid protests in China over news censorship.

The Guangdong provincial government last week blocked a New Year’s editorial in the liberal Southern Weekly newspaper, which called for the realization of a “dream of constitutionalism in China” to protect people’s rights.

Demonstrations and a public outcry against the censorship have subsequently been seen in Guangzhou, where the newspaper is based, and the cybersphere.

The censorship of the Southern Weekly editorial, the shutdown of the Web site of Yanhuang Chunqiu, a right-wing journal, as well as a law requiring Internet users to register using their real names reflect tightening media and Internet control in China, Su said in a press release.

“These developments are ironic given the reformist image of incoming Chinese president [Vice President] Xi Jinping (習近平) and his administration, as well as a development that the international community does not want to see,” Su said.

The DPP has been closely watching the development of civil society in China, especially with regards to democratic initiatives and freedom of speech, he said.

“We hope the new Chinese leader could put what he preached about caring for people’s well-being into practice,” Su said.

A media environment where free speech reigns would not only be a gauge of human rights, but is also essential to help China carry out true social and national reform, he said.

Former DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) concurred, saying: “Freedom of speech and press freedom are universal rights. They are basic rights protected by the constitution in civilized countries and should not be taken away or limited by the state by any means.”

Beijing should listen to the public’s call for democratic reform and protect freedom of speech as enshrined in the People’s Republic of China Constitution, she said in a press release.

She also urged President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to publicly and unequivocally state his position on the matter.

While Beijing has routinely cracked down on free speech, the response among the Chinese public is different this time, with more people willing to step forward and voice their support for the newspaper, Tsai said.

She added that this showed the increasing power of China’s civil society.

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