Party Censors Leave a Chinese City to Speculate on Corruption Scandal

The Washington Post reports on the tensions between the media and official censorship guidelines which prohibit independent reporting on , using a recent scandal in Harbin, in which five officials were dismissed, as an example:

“Many people in Harbin and the surrounding Heilongjiang province, based on experience in a region with a long history of official malfeasance, assumed bribery and influence-peddling were involved. But as the gossip and speculation buzzed through Harbin and made their way south to Beijing, authorities maintained silence and party censors forced a blackout on the media… ”

“‘It is very common for Heilongjiang province to have so much corruption,’ Song, 67, said during a conversation in Harbin’s Children’s Park on a frigid but sunny morning. ‘Do you see those big apartment buildings next to the park?’ he continued, gesturing toward four high-rises. ‘No ordinary Harbin citizens can afford to buy apartments there. Most people who bought apartments there are officials from counties and towns. Where does their money come from? Everyone in this park knows where. The provincial party committee knows, too. But so what?’

…China Newsweek, which has no relation to the U.S. publication of a similar name, at least one other magazine and one newspaper broke the censorship barrier two weeks ago and reported the dismissal of the five Harbin officials. The publications were based in Beijing, which meant they were dealing with national censorship officials who, journalist say, tend to be more flexible than their provincial counterparts. ”

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