The Chinese don’t care about freedom of speech

Their only concern is making money and more money, and as long as the CCP continues on a track that seems to be meeting this concern all will be well, harmony will be ensured and stability will prevail. They are actually glad the media is controlled with an iron fist, as a free media would be an invitation to chaos. Or so say several of my esteemed commenters, and plenty of other people I’ve encountered over the past five years.

There are, however, some notable exceptions. Like Mao Zedong’s former secretary and former head of Xinhua, who says, “the absence of freedom of speech is a long-term shackle that has never been tackled in China.” (Requires registration and $$, so I’m pasting the whole thing.)It’s one of those where you’ll want to read the whole thing.

Update: Joseph Kahn has a good article about this too (thanks to the commenter who pointed it out).

Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Veteran cadres in support of closed weekly

A joint declaration signed by 13 senior intellectuals and retired officials criticising the closure of the supplement last month appeared on overseas Chinese-language websites. The declaration has fuelled speculation at home and abroad that Bingdian’s prospects are looking up.

A close source to the publication said earlier this week that the push for a resumption of publication was “progressing positively”. However, others have cautioned that its future is still surrounded by “too much uncertainty”.

Another source close to the publication said: “Any optimistic speculation is premature considering the complicated situation involving China’s social reform.”

Many see Bingdian’s closure and the mounting public criticism of its fate from intellectuals, dissidents and outspoken retired officials in the past few weeks as evidence of a battle between Communist Party liberals and conservatives.

Yesterday’s declaration was initiated in Beijing. Signatories included Jiang Ping , a leading legal scholar and former dean of the China University of Politics and Law; Zhu Houze , a former head of the Central Propaganda Department; Li Rui , a former secretary to Mao Zedong ; Li Pu, former Xinhua News Agency director; and Zhang Sizhi, a lawyer who defended Mao’s widow, Jiang Qing , when she faced trial after the Cultural Revolution.

They said Bingdian’s closure was “not an individual case but a continuation of previous bad management practices such as the closures or reshuffling of editors” at outspoken newspapers including the Beijing News, Southern Metropolis Daily and the Strategy and Management Journal.

The declaration said the Central Propaganda Department’s “review and assessment team” had long been exercising “an illegal control and clamp on public opinions”.

“History proves that only an autocratic system needs a clamp on the press and wants to blind the masses forever,” it said. “We were all senior revolutionary people inspired by freedom, though we are getting to old age … but reviewing the lessons of the past seven decades, we know that once the freedom of speech is lost, the authorities can only hear one voice.”

They urged the Central Propaganda Department to publish a report on the incident, apologise for Bingdian’s closure, and abolish the review and assessment team.

They also said they wanted authorities to let Bingdian resume publication completely without taking revenge later and to draft a journalism protection law “to replace all the vicious media control measures”.

Mr Zhang denied that the letter was a surrogate appeal by Bingdian editor Li Datong or its reporters. “We stand on our own, to be true to our conscience,” the 78-year-old lawyer said.

Former Central Propaganda Department head Zhu Houze said: “A free flow of opinions and information should be allowed for the sake of China’s prosperity. To allow people to speak out freely will do no harm to the administration.

“The root cause of the Bingdian closure and other bad practices by the Central Propaganda Department is that our social system reform has not kept pace with economic, market and privatisation reform.”

Li Rui, Mao’s former secretary, said: “The Bingdian event is not the first, and won’t be the last case to prove the absence of freedom of speech is a long-term shackle that has never been tackled in China.”

“China has encountered much political turbulence and trouble just because of the absence of freedom of speech. All the political campaigns have involved literary inquisitions.”

The Discussion: 5 Comments

For those who are looking for the Chinese declaration, see this.

February 14, 2006 @ 9:30 pm | Comment

This smells like internal political tug of war between the moderates and the hardliners. Except the hardliners in this case are playing the roles of the moderates in challenging Hu. Bingdian magazine is not just a magazine. It is a political magazine with political backing. So the decision to “take it out” is now meeting with fierce resistance. It’ll be interesting to see how this battle ends.

February 14, 2006 @ 9:56 pm | Comment

Welcome and wonderful news!

February 14, 2006 @ 11:59 pm | Comment

Hehe, you heard about this before you got my message, obviously, rich.

It’s interesting and good to see that there is discontent inside the Party. Things will only get better if other “Communists” tell the Politburo when they’re in the wrong.

Hopefully the tug-of-war will favour the moderates.

February 15, 2006 @ 10:49 am | Comment

If I understand chinahand’s comment correctly, he has got it entirely backwards. It is not the HJT crowd that is silencing the media, far from it…

February 15, 2006 @ 7:33 pm | Comment

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