By David Bandurski — As Hong Kong’s Ming Pao reports today, The Beijing News, one of China’s leading professional newspapers, has committed what propaganda authorities will indeed regard as a very, very serious violation of propaganda discipline by printing a photo of injured Chinese being carted away during the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen crackdown. As one media insider exclaimed to us this morning: “This is a major deal!” (这是非常大的事件！). [See ESWN for a brief English summary of the Ming Pao report].
However, according to one CMP source still involved with the paper, The Beijing News does not yet face immediate pressure from the authorities. The source also said that not all copies of the paper had been pulled from Beijing newsstands.
CMP will watch this event closely as it unfolds, but the case certainly puts party leaders in a unwelcome bind.
By propaganda standards, the newspaper’s action is resolutely unacceptable. But the Beijing Olympics are just around the corner, and this could potentially turn into a firestorm more serious than the January 2006 Freezing Point affair — bringing the events of June 4 right back to the center of China’s international image.
The violation in question is a published photo by former Associated Press photographer Liu Heung Shing (刘香成) taken during the government crackdown on demonstrators in Beijing on June 4, 1989. The image shows two injured Chinese being rushed away on pedal carts.
[Image of the page from The Beijing News appearing in today's Ming Pao, thanks to Roland Soong at ESWN.]
The photo reportedly appeared on page C15 of the newspaper beside an interview with Liu Heung Shing, part of an interview series on “30 Years of Reform in China.”
Mr. Liu is currently an executive with News Corporation (China) and lives in Beijing, where he has just refurbished a traditional courtyard house.
THIS JUST IN:
[August 1: See the Newsweek Blog for an excellent retelling of just what happened at The Beijing News.]
“Beijing paper in hot water for 1989 crackdown photo,” Reuters, July 25, 2008, 1:37pm HK
“China paper censored for Tiananmen photo,” Associated Press, July 25, 2008, 1:10pm HK
“In Beijing’s Ancient Alleys, Modern Comforts,” New York Times, July 24, 2008 [Liu has refurbished a traditional courtyard house in Beijing and now lives there.]
“The View From Here,” [About Liu's photography and the Olympics] SCMP, July 25, 2008
“Liu Heung Shing: China stripped bare,” Times Online, July 13, 2008
“His Camera Captures the Essence of Country,” China Daily, January 16, 2008
“Liu Heung Shing Bio,” Asia2000 Publishing
[Liu Heung Shing on AP's List of Pulitzer Prize winners]
“Star TV Selects VP of Comms for China,” [About Liu and News Corporation] PR Week, November 13, 2000
[Posted by David Bandurski, July 25, 2008, 10:52am HK]