Chinese paper at centre of censorship protests hits newsstands

GUANGZHOU, China Thu Jan 10, 2013 9:12am IST

GUANGZHOU, China Jan 10 (Reuters) - The latest issue of a Chinese newspaper at the centre of anti-censorship protests appeared on newsstands in Beijing and Shanghai on Thursday as usual, but not its home city Guangzhou.

Several journalists at the Southern Weekly, seen as a beacon of independent and in-depth reporting in China's highly controlled media, had gone on strike on Monday in protest at heavy-handed censorship.

After three days of fraught talks by journalists and local officials, and protests outside the newspaper gates, both sides appeared on Wednesday to have reached a deal.

The newspaper, which is published on Thursdays, was not available in at least six newsstands in Guangzhou, which normally carry the paper. The paper appeared as normal in Beijing, carrying a cover story on the aftermath of a fire in an orphanage in central Henan province.

"It's not coming today," said one newspaper seller in a kiosk near the Southern Weekly's headquarters in Guangzhou. "I don't know why it wasn't delivered," he said, as a stream of early morning commuters bought other newspapers from his stand.

In Shanghai, two sections of the paper were missing -- one focused on a new regulation on land reclamation and the other on "the dramatic changes" in reform.

When asked about the missing Guangzhou copies, a woman called Zhou at the Southern Weekly's distribution office said: "Today's paper has been published as normal, but may not have arrived at newspaper kiosks yet, which is also normal. It should be available for purchase within today".

Zhou said she had no knowledge of whether some sections may be missing in some cities or why.

In a show of continued resistance, the Southern Weekly republished a Monday editorial from the Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily, that said "the party's methods of controlling the media must move with the times".

In its interpretation of the People's Daily editorial, the Southern Weekly said the remaining reforms that need to be done are as difficult as "gnawing at bones".

"They need the protection and support of a moderate, rational and constructive media," the Southern Weekly said.

The drama at the Southern Weekly began late last week when reporters at the liberal paper accused censors of replacing a New Year letter to readers that called for a constitutional government with another piece lauding the party's achievements.

Reporters Without Borders, an advocacy group for journalists, denounced the censorship and called on Communist Party chief Xi Jinping, set to become president in March, to abolish political censorship.

The censorship turmoil at the Southern Weekly has also spread to another newspaper. Online accounts said Dai Zigeng, the publisher of the popular Beijing News daily, had announced his resignation on Wednesday after the newspaper resisted government pressure to republish an editorial criticising the Southern Weekly. (Additional reporting by Hui Li and Beijing Newsroom in Beijing, Anita Li in Shanghai, Writing by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Michael Perry)