China’s media censorship increases ahead of party transition

Two senior executives of Shanghai-based newspaper Oriental Morning Post who were known for irritating government censors were removed from their posts and coverage has been cut, the South China Morning Post reported.

This happens ahead of the government’s transition of power, which happens once a decade.

Lu Yan, publisher of the Oriental Morning Post, has reportedly been transferred to another division of the group, Wenxin United Press Group. Sun Jian, deputy-in-chief, has been suspended, according to the Guardian

Lu’s transfer was the result of his so-called radical style, including an article about reform-minded liberal economist Mao Yushi, the South China Morning Post stated. Sun was removed because he posted a picture of the cover of a book “Conversations with Chen Xitong.” Chen Xitong was related to the 1989 pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square.

The two senior executives’ removal was a day after a newspaper in Guangdong dismissed its editor-in-chief, Lu Fumin. Guangzhou-based New Express also cut its national and international news coverage, as well as eliminated its op-ed page.

“I think these can probably be read as the surfacing of tensions playing out on a daily basis across the country’s media. These are probably more egregious examples of the tightening of everyday control ahead of the 18th party congress [where the new leadership will be unveiled],” David Bandurski, from Hong Kong University’s China Media Project, told the Guardian. He pointed out that local as much as national issues likely played a role.

The Communist Party bosses of both Guangdong and Shanghai are expected to be promoted to Politburo Standing Committee this coming autumn.

“Any topics or reports that might draw excessive attention or cause trouble are not tolerated by the authorities.” Professor Zhan Jiang, from Beijing Foreign Studies University journalism department, told the South China Morning Post. “Stability is everything.” 

According to South China Morning Post, The Oriental Morning Post is the most outspoken newspaper in Shanghai. On May 13, 2008, the day following the earthquake in Wenchuan, Sichuan, the Oriental Morning Post published the number of victims in bold on a black cover. 

Top Shanghai party officials had ordered the city’s publicity department to tighten control over the paper. “The moves will make media in Shanghai more conservative and cautious in future reporting,” a veteran journalist in Shanghai told the South China Morning Post.

Image: The Telegraph

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