The founding publisher of the mainland's most outspoken political magazine yesterday accused authorities of trying to use a cultural-sector reform initiative to weaken the editorial independence of his publication.
At a new year celebration with more than 150 of Yanhuang Chunqiu magazine's writers and supporters in Beijing, 88-year-old Du Daozheng delivered an emotional speech spelling out his worries over the fate of the publication he founded 21 years ago.
Among the supporters were Hu Dehua, son of late reformist leader Hu Yaobang, and children of other late party elders Ye Jianying and Tao Zhu, as well as respected writers such as Zhang Yihe.
'Some want to use the opportunity of the cultural-sector reform to change Yanhuang Chunqiu's editorial line of the past 21 years,' said Du, who has been repeatedly told to step down by the Culture Ministry and the General Administration of Press and Publication, the central government's regulator and censor for print media.
Du accused authorities of using the new government mandate, aimed at turning state publications into for-profit enterprises, as a pretext to strip his magazine of its relative independence.
The mandate, which came under a broader initiative to 'deepen the cultural-sector reform' announced at the sixth plenum of the Communist Party Central Committee in October, was intended to stop newspapers and magazines from receiving government subsidies, restructure them into for-profit enterprises, but continue to keep them under the party's editorial control.
But Du insisted that his magazine, unlike many ordinary state publications, receives no government money and is already financially independent, so there is no need to restructure the company.
Yanhuang Chunqiu, like all state publications, operates under a government-linked organisation that is supposed to be responsible for its content, but it maintains a relatively liberal editorial line, thanks to the backing of many respected retired senior party liberals. Du fears that if his publication has to restructure into a shareholding state enterprise under the new mandate, its relative editorial freedom will be sacrificed.
'[The authorities] want Yanhuang Chunqiu to be a shareholding company with a board of directors, and use their power and money to control our majority shareholding,' he said. 'That way they can control our personnel and change our editorial direction.'
Du said the magazine was told to restructure by the middle of this year.
This was not the first time that Yanhuang Chunqiu, which often carries articles that contest official versions of contemporary history, has come under official pressure to tone down its relatively liberal content.
Apart from receiving repeated orders to remove Du as its publisher, it has been accused of breaching government regulations by failing to submit articles for censorship.
But Du, a former director of the General Administration of Press and Publication himself, vowed he would not back down.
'The authorities want to use this opportunity to get rid of us ... but we are not going to budge an inch. We won't ever give in,' he told the South China Morning Post.
Phone calls to the Ministry of Culture went unanswered yesterday.