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Last Updated: 24 May 21:23 PM IST
9 January 2013
Press Trust of India
BEIJING, 9 JAN: A rare strike by journalists of a state-run Chinese publication ended today after a ruling CPC leader brokered a deal promising to address their concerns regarding censorship, raising hopes of reforms in the media tightly controlled by the Communist party.
Journalists of the 'Southern Weekly', which also publishes a daily newspaper in Guangzhou in South China's Guangdong Province, agreed to end their strike after the regional CPC head Hu Chunhua mediated a settlement.
Hong Kong-based 'South China Morning Post' said Mr Hu, 49, successfully mediated the journalists' standoff with propaganda authorities over interference in editorial operations, which had prompted public demonstrations by the media persons of the Chinese-language weekly.
Under the deal, journalists would end their strike and return to work and the paper would print as normal. Most importantly, the staff who took part in the strike, would not face punishment in a rare move.
Earlier, a CPC memo advocated a strong line stating that the official media would remain in its complete control.
“The party has absolute control of China's media. This basic principle is unshakable,” the memo said and blamed “hostile foreign forces” for the strike.
While the deal to end the strike was being seen as a major successful initiative by Mr Hu, tipped to be a rising star among the new generation of Chinese Communist leaders, it also marked a soft-line approach by the Party's new leader Xi Jinping, who was elected successor to President Hu Jintao in November last year.
Unlike in the past where protests were put down with an iron hand, the new set of leaders chose to negotiate a way out, tacitly giving an assurance that the Party propaganda official who was accused of changing the New Year editorial of the publication would be replaced at a later stage.
Interference in the publication's editorial policy sparked reactions Online, leading to a small protest outside the paper's Guangdong headquarters and an apparent show of support by several other news portals and publications.
Staff wrote two letters calling for the provincial propaganda chief, Tuo Zhen, to step down. BBC quoted online reports as saying the row may have widened to include another daily' Beijing News', whose publisher had resigned over pressure to publish the editorial of another state-run newspaper 'Global Times' which was critical of the strike. However, there was no confirmation of these reports.
The Southern Weekly strike was seen as a first major challenge to Xi's team, which analysts say portends the new emerging trend in China where people are willing to stand up to the authoritarian rule.
Since his taking over as the General Secretary of the Party, Xi has been drilling into the minds of the officials that the Party's hold over the country could be in question if the corruption and complacency are not tackled.
Meanwhile, the CPC-run Global Times came out with another editorial today saying the press freedom must serve society. “There was almost no space for freedom of the press before China's reform and opening up,” it said, adding things have changed with media carrying reports of various scandals.
“However, there are still things which Chinese media cannot do at present. For instance, the media cannot directly attack the nation's basic political system, because the basic political system is set out by the Constitution,” it said. “There are also some things which cannot be done today because society has not developed sufficiently,” it said, adding there are bound to be conflicts in these fields.
China's news management system is walking a difficult tightrope between the nation's development and the development of its media, the editorial said.
“Both China's social transformation and changes in journalism are accelerating. We should maintain this speed as well as the coordination between the two. Continuously reforming and improving China's news management are the realistic demands of this coordination.”