Authorities have closed down the blog of veteran Chinese journalist Chang Ping, as several thousand netizens signed a petition protesting his dismissal from the country's cutting-edge newspaper the Southern Metropolis Daily.
On Jan. 27, the outspoken editor published a statement on the Internet saying he had been fired from the Southern Newspaper Group, publisher of the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily.
Chang, 42, called his dismissal a punishment for his liberal views on a wide range of politically sensitive issues, including democracy, media censorship, the failures of government policy, and Tibet.
But Chang continued to write and post articles on his blog at tianyi.cn, a popular website for cyber-discussions.
On Feb. 5, Chang discovered to his surprise that Chinese censors had blocked his blog.
“I cannot find out the reason they closed my blog on tianyi.cn,” Chang said. “Another blog of mine is still accessible at sina.com, but they deleted all my posts in it.”
“I am astonished at this arbitrary deletion of a netizen’s posts and articles on the Internet and can hardly understand the purpose of this kind of act,” he said.
“My articles do not target anyone and carry no danger,” Chang added.
Censors meanwhile deleted all online references to Chang Ping, even blocking online searches for his name on sina.com, one of China’s most influential websites.
Beijing-based journalist Peng Xiaoyu said, “All my essays about Chang Ping on tianya.cn have been erased. Even my posts on Twitter were removed.”
Chang said, “Ironically, after I lost my job, the number of followers on my sina.com microblog site increased by more than 10,000.”
“However, the deletions and blocking will scare some of them off. It’s too bad.”
Meanwhile, within 10 days of Chang’s dismissal from the Southern Metropolis Daily, some 3,000 netizens signed an open letter protesting his removal from the paper.
Guangdong-based writer Ye Du, a member of the Independent PEN of China writers’ group, was one who signed the appeal.
“Chang Ping’s virtues as a journalist are widely admired, because he dares to use his pen to bravely face harsh social realities,” Ye said.
“There is no press freedom in China,” Ye added.
“The media are under a ceaseless crackdown and are kept in shackles. But courageous journalists like Chang work as effectively as they can, using their own judgment and devotion.”
In late 2008, Chang was removed from his position as deputy chief editor of the Southern Metropolis Daily and was also dismissed as a commentator. But he continued to work in a research position and to write commentaries for other media outlets.
Reported in Hong Kong by Xin Yu for RFA’s Mandarin service. Translated by Ping Chen. Written in English by Richard Finney.