Faceoff occurs at Chinese newspaper

Jan. 8, 2013 at 7:16 AM
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GUANGZHOU, China, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Free speech advocates faced off with supporters of Communist Party control over censorship at one of China's most liberal newspapers Tuesday, witnesses said.

Chen Min, a former senior writer at Southern Weekend, said negotiations between journalists and officials about censorship newspaper editors allege remained at a standoff as the paper's next publication date of Thursday approached, The New York Times reported.

Tuesday's confrontation in Guangzhou came after editors and reporters last week decried what they alleged was censorship by the leader of party propaganda in Guangdong province. The editorial leadership charged Tuo Zhen rewrote a New Year's editorial that originally called for greater respect for constitutional rights, turning it into a tribute to Communist Party policies.

Senior Chinese officials haven't commented on the dispute, but about 10 backers of communist belief who were at the newspaper headquarters in Guangzhou argued the party's case, the Times said. The protesters said they came of their own volition, not at the request of government officials.

"Southern Weekend is having an American dream," one sign read. "We don't want the American dream, we want the Chinese dream."

"It's the only newspaper in China that's willing to tell the truth," Liang Taiping, who said he traveled from Changsha to Guangzhou to show his support for Southern Weekend, told the Times. "What's the point of living while you can't even speak freely?"

About 70 police officers and security guards stood nearby during the protests, the Times said. While they did not try to break up the protests, officers did record them with video cameras.

Chen, a former opinion writer for Southern Weekend, said newspaper employees have been negotiating with officials to try to resolve the standoff in time to allow the next edition to be published.

Supporters and critics of Southern Weekend both claimed Communist Party General-Secretary Xi Jinping, who has spoken of reforms, would back their cause.

"I don't believe that Xi is totally hypocritical when he talks about reform," Chen said. "The Southern Weekend journalists have said that they accept party control, but the question is what kind of control and how far should it go unchallenged."

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