Test for New Leaders as Chinese Paper Takes On Censors
BEIJING — Turmoil at one of China’s leading newspapers is posing an early challenge to the measured political program of the new Chinese leader Xi Jinping, pitting a pent-up popular demand for change against the Communist Party’s desire to maintain a firm grip.
The unrest at the influential newspaper Southern Weekend began last week when censors appeared to have toned down the paper’s New Year’s letter to readers — traditionally a call for progress in the new year. That caused journalists and their supporters — including students at nearby Sun Yat-sen University — to issue open letters expressing their outrage.
“Our yielding and our silence has not brought a return of our freedom,” the students said in their petition on Sunday, according to a translation by Hong Kong University’s China Media Project. “Quite the opposite, it has brought the untempered intrusion and infiltration of rights by power.”
By Sunday night, the protests had transformed into a real-time melee in the blogosphere — a remarkable development in a country where protests of all kinds are tightly controlled and the media largely know the boundaries of permissible debate.