A remarkable incident has emboldened mainland Chinese journalists. The government suspended publication of the Bingdian Weekly newspaper supplement this year, provoking unprecedented open protest that received extensive media coverage worldwide. Even more surprisingly, the government, under the pressure of public opinion, allowed Bingdian to resume publication. The editor-in-chief and his deputy were sacked, but the open questioning of the legitimacy of the government’s regulation of journalism is bound to have a profound impact.
Foreign observers are prone to associate the incident with other recent crackdowns on China’s mass media, and to conclude that journalistic freedom is a hopeless cause on the mainland. There has been no significant change in the government’s system of regulating journalism during the almost 30 years of its open-door policy in other areas. On the contrary, it has become more rigorous and covert.
But I still have faith that subtle changes are occurring. [Full text]