The chief editor of a hard-hitting newspaper supplement shut down by Chinese authorities earlier this week has denounced the closing as an arbitrary act of Communist Party power and vowed to fight it. In an impassioned essay written Wednesday and circulated on Internet sites Thursday, Li Datong reproached officials for shutting down the supplement, Bing Dian, which he founded in 1995.
"This action has no legal or constitutional basis and seriously violated and trampled upon the party's constitution and political standards," Li wrote. "Who gave them that kind of power? They're so disgusting I don't know whether to laugh or cry."
Bing Dian, published by the state-run China Youth Daily, won legions of loyal readers through in-depth articles on sensitive topics like rival Taiwan's democracy and wrongdoing by well-connected individuals. Its shutdown, ordered by the newspaper's owner, the Communist Youth League, was the latest act in a more than one-year campaign by President Hu Jintao's government to rein in wayward media.
The move drew criticism from Bing Dian fans, who bombarded the Internet with expressions of support for Li and condemnations of the crackdown. "In the past year, those who can be gotten rid of have been gotten rid of," wrote Chinese journalist Wang Xiaofeng on his blog, Massage Milk. "Those who can be disposed of, have been disposed of all in secret."
Li said that he would issue a complaint to the Central Discipline Inspection Committee, the party's internal affairs watchdog, over the closing. Officials gave no reason for the shutdown, Li said, although he described it as the culmination of continuing tensions over the content of the four-page supplement.
"As a professional journalist, stopping the publication of Bing Dian is something I cannot understand, something I cannot accept," Li said. He said Chinese journalists from other publications had been warned against writing about Bing Dian's closure and that some readers had terminated their subscriptions to China Youth Daily in protest.
Gagging state media is the main focus of the Chinese government's effort to regulate the flow of information within the country. In the latest campaign, the government has fired aggressive editors and jailed or intimidated enterprising reporters. Last month, the government forced the transfer of a senior editor at the Beijing News, another daring tabloid.
Li said the party's Propaganda Department came down hard on the supplement several times, notably for a report alleging plagiarism by a scholar favored by high-ranking party members. The supplement was suspended for one issue after that and Li said they were forced to withdraw a follow-up report.
Bing Dian also got in trouble when it ran an essay by Taiwanese writer Lung Ying-tai that highlighted the democratic evolution of the self-governed island in recent years. China considers Taiwan its territory, and state propaganda regularly portrays Taiwanese as enthusiastic supporters of unification unfairly thwarted by the island's political leaders.
"Certain people within the Central Propaganda Department accused this essay as being 'against the Communist Party at every step' and their narrow-mindedness was truly astonishing," Li wrote. Lung, the Taiwanese essayist, rallied to Li's defense Thursday. In an open letter to Chinese President Hu, Lung warned that the closure risks alienating Taiwan's people.
"People once thought that as a figure of the new era, your mind-set and vision would be deeper and more open than your predecessors,"' Lung wrote in a half-page commentary in Taiwan's China Times newspaper, reports the AP. N.U.