As protestors gathered outside the Guangzhou offices of Southern Weekly on Monday in support of the newspaper’s editorial staff, race car driver and popular blogger Han Han lamented the uphill battle for free expression faced by journalists and other members of China’s cultural and media industries. From his blog post for the South China Morning Post:
You can have your so-called “freedoms,” but only because they have the freedom to punish you afterwards. Be it literature, news, films or television, you spend tonnes of energy trying to win their approval. Even though you want some clear rules to go by, they never tell you what they are – so everybody assumes they’re breaking the rules somehow. The only way for you to completely abide by their rules is to become like them. We end up censoring ourselves, always apprehensive, always afraid, always guessing. They grab you by your collar, clamp you by the neck, yet at the same time encourage you to run faster, sing better, and win them more honour.
We hardly have any world-class writers, directors, newspapers, magazines or films. Of course, you can blame that on the incompetence of the professionals. You could also point to Iran and say, hey, their censorship is much stricter than ours, yet they still produce world-famous works of art. You can question why we have to bend ourselves to other people’s standards. Maybe I am indeed not talented enough, but still I don’t appreciate other people censoring me, revising me, or tying me down. So, my solidarity statement today, is not just for my favourite newspaper or those journalists I respect. It is also for those in worse conditions, those media outlets and journalists who come to much more violent and miserable ends. It is also for ourselves.
Southern Weekend has informed me a lot as a reader. It gives power to the weak and hope to the hopeless. So, in its moment of weakness and desperation, I hope we can all lend them some strength, even if just a little, and help it carry on.
Witnesses said up to 200 people had joined the demonstration outside Southern Weekly’s Guangzhou newsroom, according to The Telegraph’s Tom Phillips. The New York Times’ Edward Wong reported that other celebrities and commentators chimed in on the Internet as well:
“Hoping for a spring in this harsh winter,” Li Bingbing, an actress, said to her 19 million followers on a microblog account. Yao Chen, an actress with more than 31 million followers, cited a quotation by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Russian Nobel laureate and dissident: “One word of truth outweighs the whole world.”
A well-known entrepreneur, Hung Huang, said on her microblog that the actions of a local official had “destroyed, overnight, all the credibility the country’s top leadership had labored to re-establish since the 18th Party Congress,” the November gathering in Beijing that was the climax of the leadership transition.
One journalist for Southern Weekend said Monday afternoon that negotiations between the various parties had been scheduled later in the day, but there were no results from any talks as of Monday evening.