Readers of Southern Weekly: You can all relax now. The paper has not been canceled; this year’s second issue is on the stands. The editor says things are “back to normal.” And was it such a big deal when provincial officials rewrote the paper’s New Year’s message? I mean, “The Dream of Constitutionalism” is such a downer. Guangdong propaganda overlord Tuo Zhen was much more concise with his changes: “Chasing Dreams”. Don’t you feel warm and fuzzy all over?
To be honest, readers should question whether there was ever really a dispute at all. Look at Southern Weekly’s Sina Weibo feed: One moment they say “We’ve been stripped of our constitutional rights!” Next they say: “Everything’s just fine. Pay no attention to Weibo.” Sounds like an internal problem to me.
Protests outside the Southern Weekly headquarters in Guangzhou have been very balanced during the past couple days. Advocates of free speech have supported the paper and called for the government to follow though with promises reforms. An older crowd wearing Mao Zedong pins also came as advocates of the free speech they already have. The most amazing aspect of these protests is how long it took for plain clothes officers to move in and drag these protesters away.
If anything, the controversy has highlighted Tuo Zhen’s mad media skills. The man is a former investigative journalist who obviously figured out he could get his point across better as communist propaganda official. Tuo’s “Chasing Dreams” has been so popular that rumor has it he will start his own PR and advertising company. His ability to get free, front page coverage in the country’s most respected newspaper goes unmatched.