The editorial also asserted that “under the reality of China’s current state of affairs, the country is unlikely to have the ‘absolutely free media’ that is dreamed of by those activists.”
Newspapers dutifully began reprinting the editorial Tuesday, as ordered, but in an unusual act of defiance, many editors added a note saying the editorial did not represent their paper’s viewpoint.
The censorship battle took a new turn Wednesday when it was reported that Dai Zigeng, a Communist Party official who is publisher of the Beijing News, resigned overnight in protest after being forced to print an editorial from the Global Times blaming foreign activists for the current unrest. The resignation was reported by Beijing News journalists on social media sites and by the South China Morning Post. In China, Dai’s name and the name “Beijing News” were blocked from social media search engines.
Sources familiar with the Beijing News case said Dai’s dramatic resignation came after a tense late-night standoff that lasted several hours, between a government propaganda official, who ordered the paper to run the Global Editorial or see the entire newspaper shut down, and the staff members who stood in protest. The paper finally ran the editorial, but in the news pages as a news story, not on the normal editorial page, and sources said some staffers were in tears.
Details of the resignation could not be independently confirmed. A spokesman at the Beijing government propaganda office said everything was “normal” at the newspaper.
Meanwhile, reports from Guangzhou said Southern Weekly journalists had reached an agreement with local authorities that would allow the next issue of the newspaper to come out as planned on Thursday. Some reporters and editors had said they intended to strike over the censorship issue.
In an editorial on Friday, the Global Times suggested that the kind of intrusive censorship that allegedly occurred at the Southern Weekly is routine in China. “Realistically speaking,” it said, “many Chinese media outlets have experiences of major reports being altered by officials.”
Hu Jia, an activist and friend of Chen’s in China, said that Chen, who is studying in New York, had been asked by foreign media to comment on the Southern Weekly situation but had no direct involvement in any protest. Hu said the communist authorities here have routinely tried to blame internal problems on activists overseas to divert attention from their own inability to maintain strict control.
Liu Liu contributed to this report.