“Watch and learn Tuo Niao!” (a play on Tuo Zhen – 庹震 – Guangdong propaganda chief, whose name sounds like the Chinese word for ostrich, 鸵鸟) Image credit: Jason Fang.
The Southern Weekly censorship saga rolls on, while a tentative deals seems to have been reached in Guangzhou, the Beijing News is still battling the propagandists, and netizens and celebrities on Weibo are doing their best to bypass the censors.
If this saga has demonstrated anything it’s that Chinese is a nigh impossible language to effectively censor. The ingenuity of journalists and netizens in adapting phrases and characters to express their feelings in spite of the censors is truly inspiring, and a testament to the beauty and adaptability of the Chinese language.
Beijing News, whose publisher Dai Zigeng reportedly resigned late last night after the paper was finally forced by authorities to run a pro-censorship editorial, has ostensibly kowtowed to the Party on the Southern Weekly incident, but editors still managed to slip in a message of support in an article about, of all things, porridge.
Translation by HKU’s China Media Project:
Hot porridge in an earthen pot, hailing from [China’s] southland. Just placed upon the table, the porridge writhes still with heat. Perhaps it has a heart of courage yet. In the deep of the cold night, you open your mouth and white steam billows. There are so many troubles in this world, and all you can count on for warmth is this bowl of porridge.
It is said that this year is the coldest winter for decades . . . from the south all the way to the north — like a person chilled from head to foot. In the lingering cold of the night, what can offer us a bit of warmth and comfort?
Well, the first thing that comes to my mind is a steaming hot bowl of porridge. And there is nothing better than the earthen pot porridge of the south.
Southern Weekly (南方周末, Nánfāng zhōumò) is often referred to in shorthand as 南周 (nánzhōu), which sounds very similar to 南方的粥 (nánfāng de zhōu), “porridge of the south”.
Staff also tweeted a seemingly defiant statement first thing this morning on the paper’s official Weibo account:
If you want to possess something that you have never had before, you have to do something that you have never done before. Good morning.
Other papers who resented having to reprint the Global Times’ obsequious, pro-censorship editorial, found their own means of passive-aggressive protest. John Kennedy of the SCMP highlights the following print layouts (via Beijing Cream):
Left: Xiaoxiang Morning Post ran the editorial next to an oversized advert for pest control services. Right: The Beijing News replaced the headline of the pro-censorship screed with “Global Times published an editorial about ‘the Southern Weekly incident.'” (Image credit: John Kennedy).
According to the Financial Times, the Beijing News also deleted a line from the Global Times’ editorial that promised if media confronted the government “in China, you will definitely be a loser.”
The Beijing News took a far stronger stand against propaganda officials than other papers, and has suffered for it. Global Voices translated a number of the Weibo posts by Beijing News reporters and staff:
All workers from Beijing News went back to the headquarters to express their position against the re-publication of the editorial. But they were threatened that the newspaper would be dissolved if they insisted. Eventually the piece was put in the layout. The publisher Dai Zigeng told the deputy chief of the Beijing Propaganda Department coldly: now I hand in my verbal resignation! Now, the Sina Weibo account of most Beijing News workers have been suspended and you can’t find any information regarding the news.
Tonight, I remember every one of our tears, remember the unanimous democratic vote against the re-printing [of the editorial], remember the sobbing sound in the layout room, remember every single sigh, remember the sound of the beer can being opened, remember everyone standing still, remember ourcolleagues expectation, remember all the brothers who appeared at the newsroom upon receiving the call. Please remember tonight’s humiliation. Let’s remember all of it.
I will live and die with Beijing News. Old Dai resigned, I will follow him, giving up journalism altogether.
At first I thought they are just stupid to turn a small incident big, to the extent that it can’t be wrapped up. There are thousands of solutions and they make their way to the stupidest one. Now I understand, it is not stupidity, it is a sin. The cancer cells of the sin have spread throughout the muscle of the body. The sin duplicates itself to cover another sin and now it is incurable.
For so many years, I have seen shit happening around. As I grow older and older, I start to take strange things as normal…. but I feel specifically, specifically and specifically angry and sad regarding the Southern Weekend incident. Tonight, with this now happening at Beijing News, I want to cry…
China Real Time has a detailed insider’s account of the face-off between reporters and propaganda officials in the Beijing News’ offices.
The Beijing News is becoming the focal point of the battle over censorship, as Guangdong officials have stepped in to calm matters at the Southern Weekly with provincial Party boss Hu Chunhua himself reportedly helping to negotiate a deal with the paper’s staff.
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.”
Two sources close to Southern Weekly reporters, however, said journalists would be back at work tomorrow and that propaganda authorities had agreed in future to “lengthen their leash” on the paper. The sources said reporters regarded this as a victory for the Southern Weekly newsroom.
The paper’s chief editor Huang Can would also be fired, the two sources and the source close to the Guangdong Communist Party Committee said.
Guangdong’s propaganda chief Tuo Zhen, a chief protagonist in the standoff, has faced calls to quit by staff at the paper, activists and in an online petition.
The source close to the party committee said Hu had implied that Tuo would eventually be removed, but that he could not go immediately in order to save face.
The apparent difference in approaches for the papers in Guangdong and Beijing may be indicative of the more reform minded Hu and national propaganda chief Liu Qibao, who has taken a personal interest in bringing the Beijing News to heel.
- Outrage over replacement of Southern Weekend pro-reform editorial with propaganda puff piece (January 4, 2012)
- Website of pro-reform magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu closed down after outspoken editorial (January 4, 2012)
- Journalists strike over government interference with pro-reform Southern Weekend editorial (January 7, 2012)
- Photos: Protestors in Guangzhou come out in support of Southern Weekend and press freedom (January 7, 2012)
- Companies, celebrities voice tacit and not-so-tacit support for Southern Weekend (January 7, 2012)
- Protests continue over Southern Weekly censorship as officials stick their heads in the sand (UPDATED) (January 8, 2012)
- Huge collection of photos from pro-Southern Weekly demonstration in Guangzhou (January 8, 2012)
- Watch: Protesters in Guangzhou call for press freedom (January 8, 2012)
- Beijing News publisher resigns after paper is forced to publish pro-censorship editorial (January 9, 2012)