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China's Propaganda Department Threatens to Dissolve Beijing News

The publisher of Beijing News, Dai Zigeng, announced his resignation on January 8, 2013, after the propaganda department forced his newspaper to print the Global Times editorial, which blamed “foreign forces” for being behind the Southern Weekend's editorial controversy which has triggered press freedom protests in China.

The Beijing News is a sister publication of the Southern Weekend and is co-owned by the Southern Newspapers Media Group. It is widely acknowledged as a liberal paper in China. The publisher is also an official of the Communist Party. Apart from Beijing News, the Propaganda Department also sent officials to Xiaoxiang Morning Herald in Hunan Province to monitor the printing of their January 9 newspaper, making sure that the Global Times editorial is in place.

The newsroom of Beijing News last night. Public Domain Photo from Oiwan's Weibo photo album.

Word passed around the Chinese social media circle that the Beijing Propaganda Department has threatened to dissolve Beijing News if they refused to publish the Global Times editorial. The photos on the right shows the Bejing News’ newsroom last night, the caption said [zh]:

上頭有令:今晚,昨天所有抗命的媒體補登環球社論,否則封網封報。
新京報全員趕到總部拒絕轉載,但遭到解散恐嚇,最後眼睜睜看著文章上版。社長戴自更對督陣的北京市宣傳部長副部長冷言說:我現在口頭跟你提出辭職!
目前,新京報所有員工的新浪微博被封,你從微博上看不到任何關於新京報的消息。

Order from the top: Tonight all the media outlets which have refused to publish the Global Times Editorial has to make up and print the piece or else the newspaper and the website will be blocked. All workers from Beijing News went back to the headquarters to express their position against the re-publication of the editorial. But they were threatened that the newspaper would be dissolved if they insisted. Eventually the piece was put in the layout. The publisher Dai Zigeng told the deputy chief of the Beijing Propaganda Department coldly: now I hand in my verbal resignation! Now, the Sina Weibo account of most Beijing News workers have been suspended and you can't find any information regarding the news.

This morning the official Sina Weibo account of Beijing News’ morning greeting [zh] is:

如果你想要你从未拥有过的东西,那么你必须去做你从未做过的事。 早安。

If you want to possess something that you have never had before, you have to do something that you have never done before. Good morning.

When the number of retweets reached 1350, the subtly expressed micro-blog was suspended from retweeting because of a “system error”:

Screen capture of the Weibo system error message when pressing the retweet button of the Beijing News’ morning greeting on January 9, 2013.

Letscorp has back-up [zh] of some of the discussions late at night. @宇过天新 and @刘刚在路上 were in the newsroom last night:

@宇过天新 今晚,我记住大家的眼泪,记住那一致持反对声的民主表决,记住在组版房那转身的抽泣声,记住那叹息声,记住那开启酒罐的声音,记住大家呆呆地站在哪里,企盼的目光,记住大半夜一个电话就来的兄弟,记住,今晚的屈辱。我都记住。

@宇过天新 Tonight, I remember every one of our tears, remember the unanimous democratic vote against the re-printing [of the editorial], remember the sobbing sound in the layout room, remember every single sigh, remember the sound of the beer can being opened, remember everyone standing still, remember our colleagues expectations, remember all the brothers who appeared at the newsroom upon receiving the call. Please remember tonight's humiliation. Let's remember all of it.

@刘刚在路上:誓与新京报共存亡。老戴辞职。我也辞职。不干新闻了!!!

@刘刚在路上: I will live and die with Beijing News. Old Dai resigned, I will follow him, giving up journalism altogether.

@uponsnow explained what is the meaning of dissolving the newspaper:

这里的解散不是一般的关闭,而是停报整顿后再复刊。也就是说,凡是不服的都会被解职、解雇。也就是说新京报今后会变味。

The meaning of dissolving is not closing down. It means suspending, purging and reopening. In other words, all the staff who do not agree will be fired and the style of Beijing News will be totally different [when it reprints].

@GoneWater revealed that the order of the Beijing Propaganda Department came from the top and specifically targeting the Southern Media Group:

@GoneWater: 实际上这次并非所有报纸都被点名要求转发,北京晨报、东早等报纸就没被要求。但在前天被要求的媒体中,唯新京报、潇湘晨报两家未转。北京市宣本来默许,但昨日新任中宣部长刘奇葆强令:这两家必须发。事上至刘云山,批曰:必须发。市宣副部长乃亲至报社执行。

@GoneWater: Actually not all the newspapers were compelled to re-print the editorial. Beijing morning and Dongfang Daily [from Shanghai] did not receive the order. For those media outlets which had received the order the day before, only Beijing News and Xiaoxiang Morning Herald had not reprinted. At first the Beijing Propaganda Department wanted to keep an eye close on this, but the new Central Propaganda Department Chief Liu Qibao gave out the order: these two papers must reprint the editorial. The order has been endorsed by Liu Yunshan [the former head of Central Government Department and recently promoted to the position of First Secretary of the Central Secretariat of the Communist Party of China]. The city propaganda department's deputy head went to the Beijing News headquarter to execute the order.

Below are some immediate reactions selected by letscorp :

@MoralMachine 我觉得吧,被逼转载环球时报这个事情很痛苦。被禁言大不了就委屈一下不说了。现在是有人突然往你嘴里塞一砣屎,完后还逼你喷在你心爱的读者脸上。媒体像新浪这样无法抗拒,只能在后面加一句"转载不代表意见",提示一下这屎不是我拉的,是别人塞我嘴里的。这是就中国式悲壮,心疼。

@MoralMachine It is extremely painful to be pressured to reprint the Global Times’ editorial. We may keep our mouths shut but now that someone is putting shit in your mouth and forces you to spill the shit on your beloved readers face. Media outlets such as Sina cannot resist [such brutal act] can only add a disclaimer: “reprint does not represent our position” to remind people that they are not the original source of the shit, someone else puts it in my mouth. This is a Chinese style tragedy and pain.

@胡淑芬 我原以为它们只是愚蠢,有种将小事化大,大事化到不可收拾的神奇本领。正确的路有千万条,它们总能穿过层层迷雾找到最愚蠢那一条。现在我才看明白,那不是愚蠢,而是罪恶。罪恶的癌细胞已经布满肌体,不管在哪个部位,它们都能精确模式复制,用一个罪恶掩盖另一个罪恶,它们已经罪恶滔天、病入膏肓。

@胡淑芬 At first I thought they are just stupid to turn a small incident big, to the extent that it can't be wrapped up. There are thousands of solutions and they make their way to the stupidest one. Now I understand, it is not stupidity, it is a sin. The cancer cells of the sin have spread throughout the muscle of the body. The sin duplicates itself to cover another sin and now it is incurable.

@Conilll 混推这几年,大大小小的操蛋事也见过不少了,随着年龄增长越来越有见怪不怪的感觉。。但这次南周的事情真是让我觉得特别、特别、特别愤怒和悲哀,今晚看新京报的种种让人想哭。。

@Conilll For so many years, I have seen shit happening around. As I grow older and older, I start to take strange things as normal…. but I feel specifically, specifically and specifically angry and sad regarding the Southern Weekend incident. Tonight, with this now happening at Beijing News, I want to cry…

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