Central government not behind closure of liberal magazine

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 August, 2016, 5:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 August, 2016, 9:22pm

Stories of crackdowns on dissident voices in China frequently make headline news in the Western media.

While some are justified, unfortunately, there are many others that are just based on unfounded allegations and a willing suspension of critical thinking.

A recent case in point is the closing down of the apparently liberal monthly magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu and the subsequent legal battle.

This incident was triggered by the supervisory body of the magazine, the China Art Research Academy, which in mid-July decided on a revamp of the editorial team, including replacing the 93-year-old publisher, Du Daozheng ( 杜導正 ).

A few days later, Mr Du issued a statement claiming that the management organisation had violated Article 35 of the State Constitution written to protect freedom of publication on the mainland. He then vowed to take the case to court.

It is tempting for media hounds to see a censorship perspective in the story, but the question is, how far are we willing to recognise the fine line between the highly politically charged claims and the hard reality?

Prima facie, this is not a case of the Communist Party of China folding a decades-old liberal publication because it has published something politically incorrect or even devastating. Instead, a closer look with a little knowledge of mainland affairs will tell you that it involves the replacement of a very old publisher, and some of his old friends and relatives.

Mr Du has been at the helm of the magazine for 25 years, firmly in control of all its areas – editorial, human resources and finance.

Some mainland media (and its Western counterparts are entitled to find out whether the claims are true or not) reported that there has been a long-standing internal struggle between Mr Du and his supervisors. Mr Du, it was claimed, attempted to recommend his daughter to the top job at the magazine, but others disagreed.

Now that Mr Du has taken the China Art Research Academy to court, it has become a legal issue.

I am not an expert in the mainland’s court system. Maybe it is time to wait for the outcome of the litigation.

Sherry Lee, Aberdeen