A dispute over censorship at a Chinese newspaper known for edgy reporting evolved on Monday into a political challenge for China’s new leadership as prominent scholars demanded a censor’s dismissal and hundreds of protesters called for democratic reforms.
The scholars and protesters were acting in support of the Southern Weekly in its confrontation with a top censor after the publication was forced to change a New Year’s editorial calling for political reform into a tribute praising the ruling Communist Party.
Rumors circulated that at least one of the newspaper’s news departments was going on strike, but they could not be confirmed.
Protesters, including middle school students and white-collar workers, gathered outside the offices of the newspaper in the southern city of Guangzhou to lay flowers at the gate, hold signs and shout slogans calling for freedom of speech, political reform and democracy.
“I feel that the ordinary people must awaken,” said one of the protesters, Yuan Fengchu, who was reached by phone. “The people are starting to realise that their rights have been taken away by the CPC.”