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Is the Newspaper Editor’s Resignation in China a Censorship Tipping Point?

Some critics believe that China's media environment, which was "already tightly controlled, is becoming even more tightly controlled. (Image: VT/ Hermann Rohr)
Some critics believe that China's media environment, which was "already tightly controlled, is becoming even more tightly controlled. (Image: VT/ Hermann Rohr)

A Chinese newspaper editor has resigned publicly in protest against the tightening censorship the Chinese authorities impose on media throughout the country. It comes amidst calls by the Chinese authorities to tighten the control on media, and to “toe the Communist Party line.”

Just last month China’s President Xi Jinping visited three Chinese central state media organisations — People’s Daily, Xinhua News Agency, and China Central television. The Chinese party head said in a speech before the News and Public Opinion Work Conference that all media must be “surnamed Party,” meaning all media, television, and journalists’ work must “reflect the will of the [Chinese Communist] Party (CCP).”

Can no longer bow

Yu Shaolei, an editor of Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper, posted a copy of his resignation notice on the Chinese social media site Weibo, under the title “Unable to follow your surname,” The Telegraph reported.

According to The New York Times: “The message was deleted about two hours after it was posted Monday evening on Weibo.” However, stored copies can be viewed by the public on monitoring sites like Freeweibo and the University of Hong Kong journalism school’s Weiboscope.

Mr. Yu’s post included a little explanation about the reason he decided to resign. The following translation of Yu’s post is taken from China Digital Times which is affiliated with the University of California, Berkley:

“This spring, let’s make a clean break. I’m getting old; after bowing for so long, I can’t stand it anymore. I want to see if I can adopt a new posture. To the person responsible for monitoring my Weibo and notifying his superiors about what I should be made to delete: you can heave a sigh of relief. Sorry for the stress I’ve caused you these last few years, and I sincerely hope your career can take a new direction. And to those friends who care about me, I won’t even say goodbye, Southern Media Group.”

According to an unconfirmed report The Southern Metropolis Daily, a well-known paper based in the city of Guangzhou, refused to give any comment on the matter.

Silenced by the state

There seem to be numerous accounts of people being silenced in China for speaking out in opposition to the CCP’s ideology.

The Chinese leadership has people that constantly monitor social media content, post comments, and delete any post that is not in line with the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership paradigm. The collective of such people is unofficially called “the 50 cent party” and is apparently a group of “government employees in China.” They pretend to be ordinary citizens and defend or promote the “government’s point of view,” according to an unconfirmed statement.

This statement in Mr. Yu Shaolei’s resignation post on Weibo could be interpreted as being directed towards “the 50 cent party:”

“To the person responsible for monitoring my Weibo and notifying his superiors about what I should be made to delete: you can heave a sigh of relief. Sorry for the stress I’ve caused you these last few years, and I sincerely hope your career can take a new direction.”

Some critics believe that China’s media environment, which was “already tightly controlled,” is becoming even more tightly controlled.

Chinese authorities, in line with CCP authorization, deleted the social media accounts of the popular property mogul Ren Zhiquiang, after he publicly spoke out against Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

According to an article on CNN Money, Ren, who had 37 million online followers, allegedly made a post saying: “China’s news media must represent and serve the public’s interests, not just those of the ruling Communist Party.”

In response, according to the article “the Cyberspace Administration of China” ordered Chinese technology companies Sina and Tancent to take down Ren’s microblog accounts on their platform.

In 2013, journalists took to the streets in China after claims by journalists from the Southern Weekly paper of Southern Guangzhou that the government allegedly censored an “editorial calling for political reform.” The editorial, which questioned the CCP politically, was censored and re-formulated into a tribute to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule, according to a CNN report.

Watch this news report on the 2013 protests by the journalists from the Southern Weekly paper of Southern Guangzhou from medwell1:

The list of  journalists, artists, and lawyers that have been censored or detained by the CCP, for what westerners might call “doing their job,” is quite long, and according to these latest instances, seems to be growing steadily.

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