Shanghai magazine hits a line ball on rule of law

The latest issue of Finance Week (理财一周), a magazine published by Shanghai’s Oriental Morning Post, has run the recent open letter by Chinese legal scholar He Weifang (贺卫方) expressing concern over steps backward on rule of law in Chongqing. In the open letter, posted to his blog earlier this week with an explicit invitation to Chinese media to re-publish without seeking further permission, He wrote with clear references to the abuses of the Cultural Revolution that rule of law in Chongqing has become over the past year a “furious unfolding of movement-style law enforcement and administration of justice.”

Chongqing has also gotten a lot of attention in China in recent months for changes in the media and propaganda sphere, particularly the promotion of so-called “red culture” (红色文化) and the roll out of more “red programming” on the local Chongqing Satellite TV. In his open letter, He referred briefly to these developments, but kept his attention focused on what he saw as clear threats to the independence of Chongqing’s law courts.

While He Weifang’s letter still seems to be readily available on various blogs in China, the choice to print it could be risky for mainstream media and major internet news portals. It is also accompanied by a rather strong lead editorial under the title, “A Market Economy Cannot Be Without Mavericks” (市场经济不能没有特立独行者).

Writing on Twitter today, journalist Peng Xiaoyun (彭晓芸), who was dismissed as opinion editor from Guangzhou’s Time Weekly earlier this year, praised Finance Week for its courage. “I salute this publication and the editors who put out this series of essays!” she wrote. And then, in an apparent reference to Guangdong media, which have been under consistent pressure lately: “This is why I say that there is no such thing [in China] as an eternally good newspaper, and no sacred organization that needs protecting. The space [for journalism] is on the move, always under pressure from those who censor themselves, and always being stretched by those journalists who are brave enough to push ahead.”

Frontpage Image: “On Line” by K.L. Macke posted to Flickr.com under Creative Commons license.

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