The first hints of trouble for news retrospectives and similar lists came in early December, as Time Weekly, published by the Guangdong Provincial Publishing Group, invited a group of scholars to select a list of “100 Most Influential People of Our Time” (最有影响力的时代100人). The list included the recently jailed food safety activist Zhao Lianhai (赵连海) and several signers of the Charter 08 political manifesto, including Beijing Film Academy professor Cui Weiping (崔卫平) and renowned scholar Xu Youyu (徐友渔).
Time Weekly‘s list of 100 influential people included artists, grassroots activists, educators, lawyers, officials, public intellectuals, scientists, entrepreneurs and journalists, all seen as having, as the newspaper wrote, “an irreplaceable influence on public life this year and on the development of our times.” The list was received well in China and drew attention from international media as well, all surprised at the publication’s boldness. But an order quickly came down for the recall of copies of the newspaper in circulation, and the list and related coverage was deleted from the Time Weekly website. Peng Xiaoyun (彭晓芸), the chief editor of Time Weekly‘s opinion section, who had been in charge of the list, was placed on involuntary leave.
While these are worrisome signs that must be closely watched, restricting open reflection on the major news and issues of 2010 cannot prevent Chinese journalists from pursuing the truth — nor can it erase their memories of major news events.