Jan 8, 2013

When the censor writes the editorial: how China responded

In an ominous sign of what might be to come from China's new leadership, ham-fisted censorship of a newspaper editorial has led to a strike, protests on the street and outrage online, writes Beijing-based Kway Teow.

Xi Jinping had it all worked out. The new Chinese leader had wielded understatement like a scalpel — rhetoric was slashed, and promises were made to enforce the constitution — in a low-key beginning to his time in power that seemed designed to avoid high-profile incidences of dissatisfaction and protest. But one rumbled online over the weekend and into the streets on Monday.

Yesterday, hundreds of people assembled outside the offices of the Southern Weekend, regarded as one of China’s most outspoken newspapers, to rail against a serious violation of the newspaper’s editorial ethics and show solidarity with striking journalists. The strike and the protests that followed represent one of the most visible battles for freedom of speech in decades, one that has sparked outrage among local media, students and intellectuals — and amazement from many onlookers.

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