The Southern Weekly has been a standard-bearer for hard-edged reporting and liberal commentary since the 1990s. Throughout, senior party politicians and propaganda functionaries have repeatedly attempted to rein in the newspaper, cashiering editors and reporters who breach often unstated limits.
The special commentary that reporters and editors tried late Wednesday to insert into Thursday’s edition was meant to extol that legacy, said the editor. Many other editors and reporters declined comment or refused to answer phone calls and emails. Dai Zhiyong, the columnist who drafted the original New Year’s editorial, also declined comment, but posted to his Twitter-like microblog account an essay he had written three years ago titled ‘‘Before becoming free, one must suffer.’’
Even if censorship remains largely intact, the standoff has showed the breadth of support independent-minded media like Southern Weekly have among many Chinese, who are wired to the Internet and increasingly sophisticated in their expectations of the government. Peng, the politics scholar, said the confrontation showed that the party’s censorship system needs to change, though the pace may not be as quick as many in the media would like.
‘‘To put it simply, the media cannot go beyond the existing system to pursue radical reform, but the management method also needs to change,’’ Peng said.
Associated Press writers Gillian Wong and Charles Hutzler and researchers Zhao Liang and Flora Ji in Beijing contributed to this report.