Sign up for PM Award Updates!

Chinese liberal magazine in limbo after forced reshuffle

July 19, 2016

An influential Chinese magazine which challenged official accounts of Communist history has suspended publication after its chief editor was purged in a battle for control, staff confirmed Tuesday.

The forced reshuffle at “Annals of the Yellow Emperor” has been seen as the latest tightening of controls over media under the leadership of President Xi Jinping.

Tensions came to a head when the National Academy of Arts, which is linked to the culture ministry and sponsors the magazine, said 93-year-old publisher and co-founder Du Daozheng had been removed and installed its own replacements.

“We are suspending publication,” Du said in a message Sunday on behalf of the magazine’s editorial staff, confirmed as genuine by their lawyer Mo Shaoping.

The monthly publication — said to have a circulation of more than 150,000 — is popular among retired Communist party cadres.

It contains dense accounts of party history, but its elderly intellectual publishers are seen as pushing the boundaries as part of a more liberal wing of the ruling party which favours political reform.

Li Nanyang, the daughter of one of the magazine’s advisers Li Rui — a former secretary to Communist founding father Mao Zedong — said in a statement sent to AFP that she “firmly supports” the editor’s decision to suspend publication.

“This is a day which should be remembered by history,” she added.

At the magazine’s offices in Beijing on Tuesday the few remaining original staff members, from the circulation department, confirmed that none of the previous editors or writers were working.

One, a woman named Kong, said that newly installed staff from the National Academy of Arts had brought camp-beds to sleep inside the offices and described the move as “an occupation”.

She added: “There is no way the August edition will be published.”

Like other media the magazine, known as Yanhuang Chunqiu in Chinese, has found its freedoms curtailed in recent years, staff say.

Former chief editor Yang Jisheng lashed out at censorship officials last year while quitting his job, accusing them of demanding that articles be submitted and approved before publication. Du then took over Yang’s responsibilities.

The magazine muted its coverage this year, greeting the 50th anniversary in May of the destructive decade known as the Cultural Revolution with a reprint of sections of the party’s official verdict on the period.

Lawyer Mo said the original editors would attempt to take the National Academy of Arts to court to try to regain control of the publication and its website.

The new editors could go on publishing in the meantime, he added, and the situation “doesn’t mean that Yanhuang Chunqiu will cease to exist”.

China ranks 176th out of 180 countries in press freedom rankings compiled by Paris-based campaign group Reporters Without Borders.

Many Chinese journalists say government censorship has increased under Xi.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.