Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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January 8, 2013

China censorship prompts rally and online protest

(Continued)

Free-speech protesters started gathering outside Southern Weekly's offices again Tuesday morning, holding signs calling for media freedom and other democratic reforms but were soon confronted by party loyalists waving Chinese flags.

Both sides berated each other — at times resorting to hurling abuse and calling each other "traitors and running dogs," and minor scuffling ensued that was broken up by police.

"Southern Weekly is the only mainland newspaper that, relatively speaking, is more able to report the truth," said one of the protesters, Cheng Qiubo, a democracy activist. "We are very angry that it has been censored ... so we hope that this country can have media freedom, to abolish the news censorship system."

The issue also galvanized a wide variety of people on China's popular Twitter-like microblogs, with many journalists, scholars, entrepreneurs and celebrities posting messages of support for the newspaper's stance.

"One word of truth outweighs the whole world," celebrity Chinese actress Yao Chen quoted the Russian Nobel Prize Literature winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn in a post that was accompanied by the newspaper's logo.

The newspaper's name in Chinese translates literally to "Southern Weekend," and in a sign of the authorities' sensitivity about the dispute, searches on microblogs were blocked for that name and even for the otherwise mundane individual Chinese phrases "southern" and "weekend."

At least 15 journalists at the newspaper have not been able to post messages on Sina Weibo, a popular microblog site that has served as a key platform for dissenting voices and for spreading information on sensitive incidents. The journalists have declined comment.

The online ax has fallen on sympathizers, too. Wu Wei, a Guangzhou-based based writer who posted photos from Monday's protest said his Sina Weibo account was deleted Monday afternoon. Two guards dispatched by the local police were posted to his residence to prevent him from going out, said Wu, better known by his pen name, Ye Du.

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