Leftists Protest Website Closures

Chinese authorities restrict the profile and activities of activists linked to Bo Xilai.
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Chinese paramilitary police stand guard in front of the portrait of Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Nov. 6, 2012.
Chinese paramilitary police stand guard in front of the portrait of Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Nov. 6, 2012.

Around 200 prominent left-wing Maoists penned an open letter to China's new leaders on Thursday, complaining about the closure of many of their websites since April.

The closures came shortly after the fall of former Chongqing ruling Chinese Communist Party chief Bo Xilai, whose political campaigns in the city have been likened to the turmoil and violence of Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution.

One of the letter's authors, Sichuan-based activist Liu Jinhua, said the aim of the letter was to put pressure on the new leadership under president-in-waiting Xi Jinping to make changes in policy.

"This is illegal," Liu said, in reference to the closures of left-wing websites including "Utopia" and "Mao Flag" in the wake of Bo's ouster on March 15.

"It doesn't just violate the Constitution; it violates recent [government] policy," he said.

"The liberal faction does things better than the leftists," Liu added. "The leftists make a fearsome noise but they are slow to act."

Swift action

He said the closure last week of the website of pro-reform magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu had resulted in swift action by those who ran it.

"They moved immediately," Liu said, in an apparent reference to media interviews given by editorial staff and a formal request to the Ministry of Information Industry for an explanation.

Liu said leftists had had a number of websites closed, including "Utopia," "The East is Red," and "Red China," as well as "Mao Flag."

He said that while officials had apparently "relaxed" their attitude to the sites more recently, the sites' owners were still unsure whether it was safe to start up again.

"They were all shut down...Our open letter is in the hope that they will make it clear that the bans are now lifted properly."

Liu said the letter's 230-some signatories were hoping to hold an official hearing with the government to address the issue.

"The leaders and general public should attend," he said.

Perils of return

Around the same time that the leftist websites were being shut down, authorities in the southwestern city of Chongqing quickly shut down all activities linked to Bo's populist policies.

Amateurs who had once regularly gathered in a square in the city center to sing "red songs," revolutionary anthems from the Mao era, were  told to stop because they were "annoying the neighbors."

The meetings had been part of a high-profile policy by Bo's municipal government to encourage a return to the "purer" socialist values of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).

But Bo's dismissal came as outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao warned the nation of the perils of a return to an era of political turmoil and endless factional warfare.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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