Students speak out against censorship

The recent incident at Guangdong’s Southern Weekly appears to be galvanizing Chinese from diverse backgrounds. Earlier today, we reported how the second open letter voicing support for the newspaper has been signed not just by journalists but by lawyers, academics, artists, writers, students, migrant workers and others.

This afternoon another open letter surfaced on Chinese social media, this time attributed to students at Guangzhou’s Sun Yat-sen University. The letter, which includes the names of 18 signers identified as students of the university, bears the title: “Today, We Are Not Without Choices: An Independent Call from Sun Yat-sen University Students on the Southern Weekly Incident.”

The letter concludes with three demands:

1. That the Party leadership in Guangdong launches a thorough investigation of the causes of the incident, and that those responsible are handled according to the law.
2. That all internet posts and Weibo posts discussing this incident that have been blocked or deleted be reinstated, “respecting the expression of every differing opinion.”
3. That no action be taken to punish anyone who has voiced their opinion over the incident.

A partial translation of the letter follows:

As the bells rang in 2013, the sun did not shine on this new year. Nor on this New Year’s did the New Year’s Greeting at Southern Weekly meet the public as normal. What came instead was the news that government organs (权力部门) has crudely interfered with the editorial process, creating a news accident (新闻事故); what came instead was the denunciation of propaganda organs by the editors and readers of Southern Weekly.

Southern Weekend has earned peoples’ respect became it “stands in the muck of the public will,” because it “gives power to the powerless, and urges the pessimists on.” It [commands respect] because of the conviction that “a single statement of truth weighs more than the whole world.” It [commands respect] because it “has never given up.” These are also our reasons for choosing Southern Weekly, and for supporting Southern Weekly.

Today, the Southern Weekly that has given us confidence and strength seems utterly powerless.

It is because we have yielded that power has become unbridled and wanton; it is because we have been silent that the Constitution has become a rubber stamp. Our yielding and our silence has not brought a return of our freedom and our radiance. Quite the opposite, it has brought the untempered intrusion and infiltration of rights by power.

The journalist Tan Weishan (谭伟山) wrote on Weibo: “Why have we always remained silent? Because this is an era in which a single phone call can rescind your employment, because you need to sustain your family, to put a roof over their heads, because resistance on your part could harm both those above and below you, and possibly bring the closure of the entire newspaper.”

Today we can still choose to remain silent. We can still choose to do nothing about power that has run amok. But we know very well that if today we continue to yield and to choose silence, what awaits us is a bottomless abyss. . .

Mr. Hu Shi once said famously and rightly: “Fighting for your own rights is fighting for the rights of your country; fighting for your own freedom is fighting for the freedom of your country. Never was a free and democratic country built by slaves.”

If we always pointed the finger at outside factors, and if we never began with ourselves, this world of ours would never ever change. . .

3 Comments to “Students speak out against censorship”

  1. ltlee says:

    I read the Global Times editorial on this incident. It is on the whole balanced. It had expressesed some degree of humility as well as an affinity to progress. I also agree with one of its central point that Chinese media could not be the same as Western media.

  2. Hua Qiao says:

    I read the Global Times editorial on this event. What drivel. Oh, China! Whither free speech? Why are you so afraid of ideas?

  3. Johannes Nygaard says:

    Is is also interesting to note the many images of students holding up newspapers or signs in defense of the Southern Weekly. It seems the ideal of journalistic freedom and integrity is quite deeply rooted.

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