From the Wall Street Journal Blog:
President Barack Obama’s first attempt to speak directly to China’s people during his trip this week was marred by Beijing’s failure to broadcast the remarks nationwide as promised. Now his parting words to the Chinese public are the subject of a mystery that has some observers scratching their heads and wondering whether the censors have been at work again.
Southern Weekend, a Chinese newspaper based in the city of Guangzhou, on Thursday carried an exclusive interview with Obama that its editor-in-chief conducted a day earlier at the president’s Beijing hotel. The interview was teased in large type on the front page of the paper, and splashed across half of page A02 with a big photograph. It was the only interview Obama did with Chinese media during his three-day China trip – his first visit – which ended Wednesday.
The American side asked to arrange for a special interview of Obama by Southern Weekend. Reportedly, Chinese Communist Party Secretary-General agreed. But the Central Publicity Department knew full well that if they ordered Southern Weekend to delete sensitive contents after the fact, it would lead to American dissatisfaction and a diplomatic storm. So they took pre-emptive action by preparing a “question list” that Southern Weekend had to use. Although Southern Weekend is daring, it cannot bear the responsibility of diplomacy. So it had to submit to the tsars of ideology.
It was rumored that senior officials of the Central Publicity Department were present during the Southern Weekend interview. But the American embassy in China clarified that nobody from the Central Publicity Department was present at the hotel where Obama was staying and where the interview took place. This was yet another tall trick from the Central Publicity Department which forced Southern Weekend into submission while creating evidence of absence at the scene. So the Americans were tricked and even said good things for their victimizers.
If Southern Weekend followed the instructions of the Central Publicity Department to ask the questions and write the report, why did the Central Publicity Department forbade the mainland newspapers and websites to carry the report? This is likely to be another trick employed by the Central Publicity Department against America and Obama. They want to make America and other important foreign figures see that all reports that overrides its authority shall be restricted. They want to show the ugly face of the Central Publicity Department: if you want to express your views through the Chinese media, you must get past me!