Saturday, January 5, 2013

Websites Delete Articles, Block Discussion on Party's Revision of Southern Weekend New Year's Greeting

On January 4, 2013, the state-sponsored Global Times published a Chinese-language  article entitled "We Need to Consider the 'Southern Weekend' Incident Calmly." Some excerpts:
Yesterday the modification of the Southern Weekend New Year's Special issue by the Guangdong Communist Party Central Committee Propaganda Department gave rise to a hubbub after that paper's reporters used Weibo to protest; even some overseas media were looking into it.
. . . .
The truth be told, many media outlets have had the experience of taking certain opinions from the government on important reports. Having the government provide certain specific instructions on important reports is one device that is woven into the fabric of China's news management. Overall, China's reporting is increasingly open, and the general trend is a gradual reduction in the specific instructions from the government, but at the same time, there has been no change in the larger structure of media management. 
. . . .
The Global Times published a similar (but not identical) article in English entitled "Time to Reflect on Old Media Management." That article included the following statements that were omitted from the Chinese version:
The original article recounted the difficulties of implementing constitutional governance in China for more than a century. In the altered version, the tone was changed to claim that China is closer to that goal than ever before. Many Internet opinion leaders support the editorial department of Southern Weekly. 
As this screenshot and video show, the Chinese article was deleted from these two URLs within hours - The English version is still available.

Video taken on January 5 showing Global Times article at
points to a 404 page.
Screenshot taken on January 4 showing Global Times article at
points to a 404 page.
David Bandurski at the China Media Project has an excellent summary of what happened. It began on January 3, when posts began circulating on Sina Weibo saying that the Southern Weekend's  “New Year’s Greeting” (新年献词) was originally written by Dai Zhiyong (戴志勇) and entitled “China’s Dream, the Dream of Constitutionalism” (中国梦,宪政梦), but that the version that was ultimately published had been re-written by Tuo Zhen (庹震), the head of Guangdong Party Propaganda Department, without the knowledge or consent of editors. That version was entitled “We Are Now Closer to Our Dream Than Ever Before” (我们比任何时候都更接近梦想). 

On January 4, a group of prominent former Southern Weekly journalists published an open letter sharply criticizing Tuo's actions. The letter has been published and translated by the China Media Project here - An excerpt:
The [original] theme of the New Year’s special edition of Southern Weekly was, “Blazing a New Trail with Untiring Determination: My Dream.” On January 2, after Southern Weekly had signed off on the final proofs, and completely without their knowledge, Guangdong CCP Standing Committee member and propaganda chief Tuo Zhen (庹震) directed that many alterations and replacements be made to the New Year’s special edition. This resulted in numerous errors and accidents. 
This unconscionable act resulted in the forced insertion of a text rife with errors in a New Year’s letter that is a longstanding tradition at Southern Weekly, including a grade-school error on the front page, “2000 years ago King Yu combatted the floods.” (This should be 4,000 years ago). 

These screenshots show how Sina Weibo censored searches related to the controversy.
Screenshot taken on January 3 showing Sina Weibo was censoring
searches for "Tuo Zhen." (庹震)
Screenshots showing that on the afternoon of January 3 Sina Weibo began
censoring searches for the original title of the Southern Weekend article:
 “China’s Dream, the Dream of Constitutionalism” (中国梦,宪政梦)
Screenshots showing that on the morning of January 4 Sina Weibo began
censoring searches for "Southern Weekend Raped." (南方周末 被强奸)
Screenshots showing that a search on Sina Weibo for "Southern Weekend Open Letter"
(南方周末 公开信) on January 4 returned hundreds of results. By January 5, however,
Sina Weibo was censoring searches for both "Southern Weekend" and "Open Letter."
Screenshots showing that on January 5 Sina Weibo began censoring
"Dream of Constitutionalism" (宪政梦)

Finally, this screenshot, taken on January 5, shows Baidu bans Tieba forums on "Constitutionalism."