A group of leading mainland intellectuals voiced concern for freedom of speech and academic freedom in an open letter yesterday to President Hu Jintao and other politburo members. The move came a day after the China Youth Daily said its outspoken Bingdian Weekly supplement would resume publication, but without its two most senior editors. The 13 liberal intellectuals said they were concerned about the curtailment of freedom of speech on the mainland and appealed for a review of the country's propaganda apparatus, which inhibited the free expression of different opinions. They said freedom of speech was a basic right that included 'granting people the right to make 'wrong speech''. The letter was circulated on e-mail networks yesterday. Bingdian, whose title means 'Freezing Point', was closed by the propagandists of the Communist Party's Publicity Department last month after publishing a controversial article by Guangdong professor Yuan Weishi questioning official interpretation of historical events. The weekly has been ordered to print a criticism of that article when it resumes publication on March 1. Leading law professor He Weifang , film professor Cui Weiping , lawyer Jiang Xiaoyang , sociologist Qin Hui , writer Zhang Yihe and historian Zhu Xueqin were among the letter's signatories. The intellectuals criticised the China Youth League's propaganda department and other propaganda departments, saying: 'If they disliked Yuan's article, they could have written more articles to argue back while granting Professor Yuan the chance to present more arguments, instead of shutting him up in an unconstitutional way.' They criticised the decision to close Bingdian as 'unlawful and irrational', saying it had deprived citizens of the 'fundamental right of speech and the constitutional right to a free press'. 'Today, the attack was directed at Professor Yuan, tomorrow it could strike any other academic ... Many officials fear that once people talk freely, some negative effects such as social turbulence, economic setbacks, ideological muddle-headedness and damage to government authority would result, but you should not worry in this way ... social order is not established on the base of inhibition.' They said the Hu administration should realise that in 'a Chinese society at such a transitional stage, the public ... urgently needs a channel to express opinions freely, which inevitably would help officials to better know the true nature of social problems'. 'It was barely understandable to witness the momentum for relaxed media control and better transparency after the Sars outbreak disappeared and to see the media environment worsen during the past three years and drop to the nadir marked by the closure of Bingdian,' the intellectuals said. They ended with an appeal for an end to unconstitutional practices by the China Youth Daily propaganda department and the return of media policy to the 'harmonious direction of three years ago'. A media analyst said: 'The fundamental question behind the intellectuals' appeal lies in the root question facing the current Chinese government - that is whether the country is governed by law or governed by the party.' Sacked Bingdian editor Li Datong and deputy editor Lu Yuegang yesterday disclosed the previously confidential petition letter they had written to Central Discipline Inspection Commission members Wu Guanzheng , President Hu, National People's Congress head Wu Bangguo , Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice-President Zeng Qinghong , but not to party Publicity Department head Liu Yunshan . In the petition, Li expressed his anger as a veteran party member at Bingdian's closure and called for a thorough investigation of the decision, which he said was illegal and breached the party's constitution and management procedures. In an open letter they released in response to their removal, the two editors criticised the China Youth League party committee's decision to transfer them to the newspaper's research institute as an act of revenge for Li's protests at Bingdian's closure.