How paper took on Chinese propaganda chief - and lost Insider tells how Communist official demanded editorial be printed
A journalist from the Beijing News, one of the newspapers at the centre of a censorship row with the Chinese government, has claimed that a state propaganda official marched into the paper's offices on Tuesday night and demanded it print an article that criticised its sister paper over a clash with Communist Party censors.
Staff from Southern Weekly, a Guangdong-based paper known for its outspoken coverage, went on strike earlier this week after an editorial in the paper calling for reform was changed. Staff then demanded the resignation of the southern province's propaganda chief.
The unnamed employee's extraordinary account claims that Yan Liqiang, the deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Party Committee Propaganda Department, arrived at the Beijing News offices around 8pm and ordered the paper to reprint an editorial first published in the pro-nationalist tabloid Global Times, which stated that supporters of Southern Weekly's stance on censorship were backed by foreign-based human rights activists.
The paper's top leaders initially refused to do so, and while the argument continued in a fourth-floor conference room editorial staff rushed to sign off the pages. "The aim was to sign off on everything by 12.30am," the journalist said. "A minute later and it would all end up in disgrace. We heard that [publisher] Dai Zigeng and [editor- in-chief] Wang Yuechun said if the editorial was reprinted, they would resign.
"A little after midnight, staff members who had gone home began to pour back into the office to see how the situation would pan out. We all felt happy and proud that our leaders had decided not to reprint the editorial. We thought if we could only stand firm for a couple more hours, the situation would go …