China censor row paper Southern Weekly back on stands

Southern Weekly, published on 10 January 2013 Guangdong-based Southern Weekly is known for investigating reporting

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A Chinese newspaper that saw a stand-off over censorship has published a new issue, as police removed a small number of demonstrators outside its offices.

The Southern Weekly went on sale two days after a reported agreement to end the dispute.

Staff had demanded a top propaganda chief step down after a New Year message calling for reform was changed.

The row had sparked small protests and displays of solidarity from other media outlets.

Southern Weekly - a Guangdong-based paper also known as Southern Weekend - is a well-respected publication.

Journalists sought the resignation of top propaganda official Tuo Zhen after a piece calling for guaranteed constitutional rights was watered down.

The row - which led to some staff stopping work - was reportedly defused by new provincial party chief Hu Chunhua, although details are not clear.

'Rigid attitudes'

The paper's latest issue, published on Thursday as normal, followed Southern Weekly's long tradition of cutting-edge, investigative journalism.

Key figures

  • Southern Weekly - weekly paper with 1.6m circulation, based in southern province of Guangdong; seen as influential and daring, but like all China's media, it answers to the ruling Communist Party
  • Tuo Zhen - former economics journalist who took over as Guangdong propaganda chief in 2012, prompting increasing criticism of his heavy-handed measures
  • Huang Can, Southern Weekly's acting editor-in-chief
  • Hu Chunhua - newly appointed Communist Party chief of Guangdong province, and touted as a future leader of China; reports suggest he helped defuse the stand-off
  • Among those signing open letters opposing Tuo Zhen's actions are prominent legal scholar He Weifang, outspoken economist Mao Yushi and prominent blogger Li Chengpeng

It led with a lengthy report about a fire at a makeshift Henan orphanage. It also contained investigative reports on the environmental damage caused by abandoned coal mines in Shanxi province and a poor man in Jiangsu province who was forced to administer his own dialysis treatments.

Only a small section of the paper indirectly referred to Southern Weekly's recent row with the censors.

The paper republished an editorial from Communist Party paper People's Daily which said that methods the party used to control the media "must keep up with the times".

In an article commenting on the editorial, the Southern Weekly argued that China's policy of opening up must also be reflected in a more open media.

"We should toss away old and rigid attitudes that are not good for fixing the mental knots and rallying people's minds", the editorial noted.

Outside the paper's headquarters in Guangzhou, a handful of protesters - one in a wheel chair - were bundled into a van by police.

Earlier in the week larger groups of people had turned out to show their support for the paper, but these numbers appeared to have dropped.

The dispute provoked strong reaction on the internet, including from high-profile bloggers.

It also spread beyond Southern Weekly, after some papers tried to disobey an apparent government directive ordering papers to publish a Global Times editorial blaming the confrontation on "activists outside the media industry".

Other media portals published disclaimers saying they did not endorse the views contained in the editorial.

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