Chinese hold anti-censorship protest outside newspaper
By James Pomfret
GUANGZHOU, China (Reuters) - Hundreds of supporters of one of China's most liberal newspapers demonstrated outside its headquarters on Monday, backing a strike by journalists against interference by the provincial propaganda chief.
The rare anti-censorship protest happened in Guangzhou, capital of wealthy Guangdong, China's most liberal province and birthplace of the reforms, begun three decades ago, that propelled China to become the world's second-largest economy.
The outcry began late last week when reporters at the influential Southern Weekly newspaper accused censors of replacing an original New Year's letter to readers that called for a constitutional government with another piece lauding the party's achievements.
Police allowed the demonstration, suggesting the Guangdong government, led by newly appointed Hu Chunhua, a rising political star, may want to tread carefully in tackling public discontent over censorship.
The protesters, many of them youths, held signs with slogans such as "Freedom of expression is not a crime," and "Chinese people want freedom". Others made speeches defending the paper an laid chrysanthemums, a flower used in Chinese funerals, to symbolically mourn the death of press freedom.
"The Nanfang (Southern) Media Group is relatively willing to speak the truth in China so we need to stand up for its courage and support it now," Ao Jiayang, a young worker for a non-governmental organization, told Reuters.
"We hope that through this we can fight for media freedom in China," Ao said. "Today's turnout reflects that more and more people in China have a civic consciousness."