China paper at center of censorship row back in print

AFP, GUANGZHOU, CHINA

Fri, Jan 11, 2013 - Page 1

A Chinese newspaper at the center of protests over censorship yesterday said that the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) regulation of the media must “keep pace with the times,” in its first edition since the row began.

“It’s fundamental that the party regulates the press, but its method of regulation needs to be advanced to keep pace with the times,” the Southern Weekly said in an editorial, without referring directly to the controversy.

The row at the paper, sparked by the replacement of an article urging greater rights protection with one praising the CCP, has seen demonstrators mass outside its headquarters in the city of Guangzhou.

At their peak the protests, the first against press censorship in two decades, drew hundreds of people and the campaign built momentum on microblogging site Sina Weibo, backed by the blogosphere and celebrities with millions of followers.

However, the popular newspaper came out yesterday as scheduled, after reports that staff and authorities had reached a deal that officials would no longer directly interfere in content before publication.

Only a few demonstrators gathered outside the newspaper’s main office and reporters saw two — one of them wheelchair-bound — put into a vehicle and driven away, in an indication that authorities’ tolerance for the rallies was waning.

There was speculation that as part of the agreement, Southern Weekly would not give its account of the controversy.

The Southern Weekly said that because of the rise of the Internet, China needed an “updated method of managing public opinion.”

Yesterday’s edition led with a two-page investigation into a fire at an orphanage in central Henan Province and devoted pages three and four to a review of the most influential legal cases of last year.

“I don’t think there will be any results from this,” said a student buying a copy in Guangzhou, referring to the protests.