Two days ago, rumors began circulating on social media that there were troubles at Window on the South (南风窗), a Guangzhou-based news and current affairs magazine with a distinguished 26-year history and a reputation as one of the leading lights of professional journalism in China. It is now confirmed that Zhao Lingmin (赵灵敏), one of the publication’s top editors, has been suspended from her duties (停职).
The action is the latest in a number of disciplinary actions against journalists in the past year. Most recently, China Central Television producer Wang Qinglei (王青雷) was suspended after his program was outspoken in its criticism of the government’s handling of the July 23 high-speed train collision in Wenzhou.
It seems that the chief reason for Zhao’s suspension is an article called “China Has Risen, We Must Say Goodbye to the Foreign Policy of Revolution” (中国要崛起，必须告别革命外交), which she wrote for a recent edition of the magazine [more from the SCMP]. This article is still available on a number of blogs and chatrooms, but has been deleted from most other sites. The original link at the Window on the South website now results in an error message:
The following is a translation of Zhao Lingmin’s letter to colleagues concerning her suspension from Window on the South:
After a meeting yesterday I had already accepted a notice from the board [informing me] a termination was to be carried out and that [I was to] undergo self-examination. Beginning from today, I have already been released from all editorial work on this publication. The second half of the year is a crucial time for circulation and advertising for next year, and I already had many ideas and plans in place for the next few months, but none of these can now be done. Window on the South no longer requires my thoughts and consideration.
As to the “errors of political guidance” (政治导向错误) represented in the article “China Has Risen, We Must Say Goodbye to the Foreign Policy of Revolution” (中国要崛起，必须告别革命外交), I naturally see this in a different way [from authorities], but clearly right now there is not an atmosphere or opportunity for the discussion of issues on the basis of facts and principles. As the writer of this piece and as the editorial head (采编中心主任), I feel deeply sorry for the negative impact this piece has had on this publication, but magazine publishing has its own process and I can only take on the responsibility I am meant to take on. They way things are now being handled, heaping all of the burdens on the writer and on the publisher who has no direct connection to the article, magnifying the problem as a question of principle, targeting people rather than issues and selectively and brashy handling this matter — clearly, this is something I cannot countenance.
I have passed seven full happy years at Window on the South. Having made the journey from a point where I was a new hand too timid even to pick up the phone to interview someone up to this point today, I offer my heartfelt thanks to Window on the South for giving me this opportunity and nurturing. I am also thankful for the support I have received from all of you. At the same time, I feel I have given my utmost in my work, and there is nothing on my conscience. Particularly in the recent three years, as demanded by my position and my sense of responsibility, I have put perhaps all of the time and energy I could into work, to the point where it has been difficult to have a full personal life. If it had not been for this incident, I might not perhaps [anyway] have continued this way of life for too many more years. But now, in this accident, I have at last been disengaged, and I have an opportunity to live a normal and relaxed life. This morning, I discovered for the first time upon crawling out of bed that I no longer have to think about things for the sake of work. While this feeling is unfamiliar, it seems not so bad.
Over the past few months what has most gratified me is the way that most members of our editorial team have found their own independent characters and judgement, that they don’t fawn and slavishly accept things. In my view, it is on the basis of this spirit that Window on the South has stood tall these 26 years, and it is also the reason why so many colleagues have been able to press on year after year even as they are full of complaints about the situation of hte magazine. The inertial force of this spiritual community is something that no material bounty or connection could ever replace. While it may be buffeted by a larger climate and local environment that grow narrower by the day, I really hope everyone [at the publication] will continue to push on with this independent character and judgement [NOTE: By “environment large and small” Zhao is referring to larger national trends, such as tightening ahead of next year’s Party Congress, and the specific environment facing the publication, including management and local leaders]. I also hope that our department in charge (主管部门) [which administers the publication] and those in charge will respect the time-honored legacy, culture, atmosphere and values of Window on the South, having an attitude of caution and responsibility toward history in operating and managing this magazine with such a brilliant past.
I thank everyone for their concern over the past two days. I am fine, and I hope all of you take care as well.
Zhao Lingmin (赵灵敏)
August 16, 2011