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.
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]:
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:
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”:
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 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: 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:
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: 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 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 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 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…