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China’s top propaganda organ has sent out an urgent memo stressing that the Communist Party still had “absolute control” of the press in China – and this would not change, sources said on Tuesday.
In the memo, sent on Monday to party chiefs and media officials, the Publicity Department of the Communist Party’s Central Committee said it had reached three conclusions over the recent censorship row at Southern Weekly. These are:
“The party has absolute control of China’s media. This basic principle is unshakable,” it said.
“The Southern Weekly publishing incident has nothing to do with Guangdong province’s propaganda chief, comrade Tuo Zhen.”
“Hostile foreign forces had interfered in the Southern Weekly incident,” the memo added.
These three points have been confirmed by a senior editor at a Beijing newspaper and an editor at a Guangzhou newspaper.
The memo requires officials to continue to prevent editors and journalists from expressing online support for Southern Weekly. It also asked newspapers to print an editorial published by the state-run newspaper, the Global Times.
“Because of China’s social and political realities, the press freedoms asked by these people simply don’t exist,” read the editorial.
“Media reform is only part of China’s large reforms, and it will never become a special area,” it added.
The editorial also accused bloggers of pretending to be Southern Weekly staff and spreading false information online. Hundreds of supporters of the outspoken newspaper protested outside its Guangzhou headquarters on Monday.
They pledged their support for the staff in their dispute with provincial propaganda authorities. The paper’s editorial staff wants an independent team to investigate the matter.
As confirmed by SCMP.com, newspapers which published the Global Times editorial include: Guangzhou Information Times, Guangzhou-based New Express Daily, Beijing Youth Daily, Beijing Times, Hangzhou-based City Express, Shenzhen-based Daily Sunshine, Xi'an-based Sanqin Daily, Xi'an Evening News, and China Business News.