Ytringsfrihed i Kina: Opsamling og links om protesterne i Guangdong

Journalisterne på en af Kinas mest respekterede aviser, Nanfang Zhoumo, er gået i oprør mod den stigende censur. De har fået opbakning fra andre journalister, bloggere, akademikere, skuespillere og aktivister fra hele landet. Her er dagens opsamling.

Reuters citerer en anonym kilde for, at der måske er en løsning på vej:

The Communist Party chief of Guangdong province stepped in to mediate a standoff over censorship at a Chinese newspaper on Tuesday, a source said, in a potentially encouraging sign for press freedoms in China.

The source close to the Guangdong Communist Party Committee said Hu Chunhua, a rising political star in China who just took over leadership of Guangdong province last month, had offered a solution to the dispute that led to some staff at the Southern Weekly going on strike.

Under Hu’s deal, the source said, newspaper workers would end their strike and return to work, the paper would print as normal this week, and most staff would not face punishment. “Guangdong’s Hu personally stepped in to resolve this,” the source said.

“He gets personal image points by showing that he has guts and the ability to resolve complex situations. In addition, the signal that he projects through this is one of relative openness, it’s a signal of a leader who is relatively steady.”

Shanghaiist fortæller, at en redaktør på den indflydelsesrige avis Bejing News har trådt tilbage i protest, fordi han nægtede at trykke en leder, der var et forsvar for censur:

The Beijing News (新京报), a newspaper owned by the Nanfang Media Group (which also publishes the Southern Weekly) was one of the few Chinese papers brave enough to refuse a Central Propaganda Office order to republish the Global Times’ pro-censorship editorial “Southern Weekly’s ‘Message to Readers’ Is Food for Thought Indeed.”

Reporters at Beijing News are informed of Dai’s resignation and that the paper will print the Global Times’ editorial (image via John Kennedy).
Now, reporters at the Beijing News have revealed that Dai Zigeng (戴自更), the Communist Party official who served as the paper’s publisher, resigned late last night after propaganda authorities forced the paper to run the Global Times’ editorial in today’s edition. Other papers that also resisted the instruction to run the editorial report being pressured to do so today.

China Media Project giver en god og grundig baggrund om, hvordan de kinesiske internetbrugere går til modangreb på censuren:

The Southern Weekly story continues to develop rapidly in China. With no response yet from the Party leadership, the stakes are rising. How will China’s leaders balance the impact this crisis could have on Xi Jinping’s (not-so-carefully crafted) image as a reformer against the Party’s essential priority of maintaining public opinion controls?

If it is true, as Berkeley’s China Digital Times (CDT) reports, that media have been issued a propaganda directive on the Southern Weekly incident that deflects blame from Guangdong propaganda officials toward foreign “hostile forces,” that is not an encouraging sign. The tone of the directive as reported by CDT is extremely hardline, reaffirming that “Party operation of the media is an unshakeable basic principle (党管媒体是不可动摇的基本原则).”

As the Southern Weekly crisis develops, we should bear in mind that this did not begin as a face-off between pro-reform voices and status-quo Party conservatives. While the incident has now prompted calls for freedom of speech in China, the root issue was that propaganda officials in Guangdong — the spiritual heart of China’s reform and opening — upset the status-quo by exercising censorship to such an intrusive extent that the situation became unacceptable to working journalists, most of whom had already made an uneasy peace with media controls.

New York Times og Bill Bishop har en analyse, der sådan siger det, som skal siges. Han skriver om de store forventninger, der var til Xi Jinping, da han blev udpeget som generealsekretær, og hvordan konflikten om Sydlig Weekend kan løses:

Expectations are high for change under Xi Jinping, who in his first eight weeks in office has undertaken an effective campaign to signal that he is serious about fighting corruption, forcing officials to be more accountable and less imperious, building the rule of law, improving people’s livelihoods and pushing forward with economic reforms.

Rising expectations are good so long as they are fulfilled. Mr. Xi appears to be facing his first major test with the public blowup over the censoring of Southern Weekend, a liberal newspaper in Guangdong Province, the destination of Mr. Xi’s recent inspection tour widely seen as signaling homage to Deng Xiaoping and commitment to serious economic reform.

A hopeful resolution to the Southern Weekend situation might be that Mr. Xi realizes the benefits of listening to the liberal media and netizens and renounces the actions around censorship of the Southern Weekend editorial.

A free speech advocate outside Southern Weekend newspaper in Guangzhou, China, on Tuesday.
But Mr. Xi and other officials may believe that giving any ground on this issue would open the flood gates to many other aggressive calls for change that, while couched in support for the Communist Party and the Constitution, in reality would likely undermine the Party’s rule.

Mr. Xi increasingly looks to be a staunch Dengist, meaning he believes in pursuing major economic reform while maintaining the unchallenged rule of the Communist Party.

Loosening controls on the media flies in the face of the Party’s decades of focus on ideological work and propaganda control. One or more midlevel officials involved in this mess may need to be sacrificed for expediency, but significant change is unlikely.

Daily Beast skriver også om forventningerne til Xi Jinping, og, som Melinda Liu skriver, at det er for tidligt at dømme ham:

It may be premature to expect Xi to aggressively tackle an issue as controversial as censorship less than two months after becoming party head. For one thing, the leadership succession isn’t yet complete. Political transitions in Beijing are unique in that they play out in both party and government positions—but not simultaneously. The former took place in November, while the latter is due to take place in early March after the annual session of parliament, the National People’s Congress.

At the moment, Hu Jintao is still China’s president, even though Xi has already succeeded him as party chief and as head of the party’s key central military commission. “People should be patient and give Xi some time. Hu was in power for 10 years and has done almost nothing for the country. I don’t think Xi will be in charge officially until after the coming national people’s congress this March,” said Li Datong, former editor of the weekly magazine Freezing Point. “In time, I’m quite sure Xi will try his best to liberalize freedom of expression.” The January 2006 closure of Freezing Point, and firing of Li as managing editor, followed the last incident of open opposition to media censorship, in which the paper published a letter by academic Yuan Weishi condemning government interference in media.

Voice of America har interviewet Kerry Brown, der heller ikke forventer, at der stille og roligt bliver lagt låg på krisen:

Kerry Brown, who heads the China Studies Center at the University of Sydney, says he does not expect Beijing to make any major concessions, such as dismissing the provincial propaganda official.

“If journalists were able to do that in such a key area…then they’ve really got a big scalp. And that will probably give the sniff of blood to others,” Brown said. “I think if the party does that, it will probably be construed as a sign of weakness, and I don’t think the party will be willing to pay that price at the moment.”

Sinostand og Eric Fish har lavet en god og velargumentet liste over, hvad der foregår i Guangdong. Her nummer to på listen over, hvad krisen ikke handler om:

The first domino toward a mass free speech movement or a Tiananmen-like showdown.
The Telegraph ran a piece saying this “is arguably the most open and widespread display of dissent since the Tiananmen Square protests almost a quarter of a century ago.”

Maybe that’s technically true, but it oversells the significance of where we’re at now. When Wukan residents expelled their local government in late 2011, it was considered a huge deal and people (including myself) were wondering if it was a preview of things to come – either of further uprisings or a model for peaceful government accommodation.

It was neither.

There’s about a 90% chance the Southern Weekend standoff will fizzle out one way or another with a mild one-off solution. Protestors have been tacitly allowed to demonstrate so far, suggesting the government still isn’t entirely sure what to do. Guangdong’s new party secretary Hu Chunhua, as of now, is the favorite to replace Xi Jinping as China’s president in 2022. If he gets blood on his hands or gives an obvious victory to free speech agitators, his hopes could get dashed pretty quickly. It’s very unlikely there will be a violent crackdown or an agreement to ease media controls, but more likely some minor private concession (or effective threat) to the paper that only applies to present circumstances.

New York Review of Books trækker trådene tilbage til 1989, hvor Jonathan Minsky mindes en anden sag, hvor en kinesisk avis var i vanskeligheder:

I felt a shudder of déjà vu watching the mounting protests inside China this week of the Communist Party for censoring an editorial in Southern Weekend, a well-known liberal newspaper in the southern city of Guangzhou. It is all too similar to the disciplining in April 1989 of another Chinese paper, The World Economic Herald in Shanghai, and its editor, Qin Benli—events that played an important part in the gathering unrest in Tiananmen Square.

The offending World Economic Herald columns—and there were several—praised Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang, who had died in April 1989, and who had at the end of his life been accused by Senior Leader Deng Xiaoping of being soft on dissent. The authors of the articles demanded that Deng retract his denunciation of Hu. Shanghai’s Party secretary Jiang Zemin, soon to be the country’s president, declared, “It’s not appropriate to publish these sensitive views in the current situation.” He insisted that the paper’s views be brought to the Party’s attention “through proper internal channels,” but within a few days the articles had been widely circulated, both internally and abroad, leading to growing protests.

Atlantic og deres tidligere Kinakorrespondent, den dygtige James Fallows, kan så slutte af her, hvor du kan læse en lille guide, der giver en god baggrund om sagen. Her afsnittet om de kinesiske medier:

The Chinese media in general: As I never tire of pointing out, China is a giant, diverse, contradictory place in every conceivable way, and that applies to the media as well. Virtually all outlets operate under the threat, and often the imposed reality, of strict government control. But some reporters, editors, and broadcasters make the very most of the opportunities and openings they find; they represent some of the bravest journalists working in the world today. Others are just time-servers and system-supporters who accept their salaries and often the “red envelope” bonus pay-offs. For more on the red-envelope culture, see the wonderful satirical novel The Banquet Bug, by Geling Yan.

China Digital Times har som sædvanlig en solid dækning, som du bør følge. For eksempel her, her og her.

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