The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. The name of the issuing body has been omitted to protect the source.
The liberal journal Yanhuang Chunqiu has long fought to maintain its independence with the aid of retired reformist patrons among the Party elite. Last year, Great Famine historian and former Xinhua journalist Yang Jisheng was forced to step down as editor-in-chief, predicting that “maybe one day, under our opponents’ pressure, Yanhuang Chunqiu may have no choice but to perish.” On Thursday, South China Morning Post’s Jun Mai reported on a new intervention by the Chinese National Academy of Arts, a Ministry of Culture organ which has supervised the journal since 2014.
Among those dismissed is publisher Du Daozheng. Du, 93, a former chief of the General Administration of Press and Publication, the government censor, was an influential leader of the magazine’s staff and respected by retired cadres.
The academy said Du “is too old” and the reshuffle was based on guidelines from the party’s Central Organisation Department and the official news censor.
[…] Like Du Daozheng and Hu Dehua [son of former leader Hu Yaobang], many of the magazine’s writers and editorial committee members are reform-minded party veterans. They include Li Rui, former secretary of late chairman Mao Zedong.
But the newcomers have very different backgrounds. The new publisher, Jia Leilei, 60, is an academy deputy director and starting his career as a movie expert. The new editor in chief, Hao Qingjun, 48, researches literature at the academy. Neither have worked at the magazine before.
Yanhuang Chunqiu is seen by many as a torchbearer for liberal-minded intellectuals in the party. It has repeatedly carried unflattering articles on the dark side of the party’s history including the Cultural Revolution. It has also repeatedly voiced support for constitutional democracy. [Source]
On Friday, Yanhuang Chunqiu staff announced that they would sue to stave off the academy’s interference, which marks the culmination of a series of clashes over deviations from Party orthodoxy. From The New York Times’ Kiki Zhao:
In response to the reshuffle, Yanhuang Chunqiu issued two announcements. The first, released on Thursday, said that the academy had violated a 2014 agreement that gave the journal control over personnel issues and that it planned to sue. The second, on Friday, said that several academy staff members had moved into the newsroom. “Eating meals and sleeping at the office day and night have disrupted our work,” it said.
The magazine also said that the password for managing its official website had been changed, and that it had been unable to publish its announcements there. It called on readers via WeChat to help spread word that they had hired lawyers to file a lawsuit against the academy.
[…] “The people Yanhuang Chunqiu depends on, their power and ideas, are waning within the party,” said Wu Si, a former chief editor of the journal. “Meanwhile, ideological controls have become tighter in the past year or two.” Mr. Wu resigned in December 2014, shortly after the academy took charge of the publication.
[…] “The clashes [with the academy] were pretty serious on several occasions, to the extent that they went to the printing factory to try to stop publication,” he said. “Now, after this blow, it will probably be difficult to adhere to the magazine’s original principles. Reformists, liberals and those who support moderate democracy are losing yet another citadel. It’s a big setback.” [Source]
At Medium, China Media Project’s David Bandurski writes that “the third major convulsion at the journal since 2014 […] is part of a sustained push to subdue an influential voice with strong backing from Party reformers. […] Like the earlier pressure on Yang Jisheng, this latest move is almost certainly a reflection of the mood at more senior levels. This is a story to watch.” He then translates the statement announcing Yanhuang Chunqiu’s lawsuit against the Academy of Arts:
(1) The “Contract Between the Chinese Academy of Arts and Yanhuang Chunqiu” clearly stipulates that our journal has the right to make personnel appointment decisions, control over financial affairs, and the right to make publishing decisions (发稿自主权). Both sides stamped and sealed [the agreement], and it has legal force. […]
(3) Yanhuang Chunqiu supports the policy of “governing the nation according to law” (依法治国) of the Party’s Central Committee under the leadership of Xi Jinping. In the 25 years since our journal was launched, we have worked hard to propagate the line and policies of the 3rd Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the CCP [the meeting in December 1978 that launched opening and reform], and we have earned a favourable reputation. Lately, under the unusual actions of our sponsoring institution, we face an impasse. We sincerely entreat our readers, our writers and people from various corners of society to pay attention to this matter. [Source]
On Thursday, Bandurski posted a translation of a 2003 Yanhuang Chunqiu article illustrating “the short-lived critical tradition in Chinese newspapers” before the start of the Anti-Rightist Movement in 1957. The piece was written by Zhong Peizhang, deputy editor-in-chief of China Youth Daily in the mid-1950s.
[… China Youth Daily’s] Hot Pepper supplement was about courageously tackling the uglier aspects of our society and the trend of corruption emerging among cadres in the New China — while at the same time urging the youth to fashion a splendid new world. Hot Pepper had a tremendous influence almost immediately. People felt the keen and constructive criticism in the supplement spoke to what people kept in their hearts. Hot peppers are spicy, but they are full of nutrition too; they promote perspiration and help clear up ailments.
Other newspapers, especially youth oriented publications, came out with their own special columns and supplements similar to Hot Pepper, and all told they amounted to a formidable force of supervision by public opinion (舆论监督), earning the support of the masses — but at the same time making certain people uneasy. [Source]
Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source. See CDT’s collection of Directives from the Ministry of Truth since 2011.