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China officials, Southern Weekly staff end censorship standoff

January 08, 2013|By Barbara Demick
  • A demonstrator shouts slogans during a counter-demonstration against supporters of the Southern Weekly newspaper outside the newspaper's headquarters in Guangzhou in southern China's Guangdong province.
A demonstrator shouts slogans during a counter-demonstration against… (Hu Xiang / EPA )

GUANGZHOU, China -- Communist Party officials appear to have defused a potential crisis over media censorship in Guangzhou with a compromise that persuaded journalists at a maverick newspaper to publish Thursday as planned.

The journalists at Southern Weekly, one of China's boldest and most popular publications, had threatened to strike in protest over a New Year's editorial on political reform that was watered down by propaganda officials.

The exact terms of the deal were not released, but it appears that the journalists agreed to refrain from airing their grievances in public about Tuo Zhen, the propaganda chief for Guangdong province accused of the heavy-handed censorship that sparked the standoff. The staff had planned to publish details of more than 1,034 stories they said were censored or deleted in 2012, according to a journalist who asked not to be quoted by name.

Southern Weekly staff members were instructed not to speak to reporters for foreign media about the protest.

While the immediate crisis in Guangzhou appeared to be winding down, reverberations were spreading throughout China. The editor of the Beijing News was reported to have resigned early Wednesday after refusing to run an editorial condemning the protest at Southern Weekly. It appeared that editors at other news organizations across China might be removed from their posts because of the flap.

Outside the gates of the newspaper in Guangzhou, protests continued unabated Wednesday afternoon.

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