Workers at a newspaper in China‘s Guandong province have gone on strike after their New Year’s Day editorial was spiked by local propaganda chiefs. The original article on the Southern Weekly, which had called for the protection of individual rights, was replaced by another praising the communist party. After editors used Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo to deny their authorship, the Central Propaganda Department asked them to desist from posting comments about the controversy and hand over their Weibo passwords.
Over the weekend, a group of prominent academics released an open letter mourning “the loss of freedom of expression in Guangdong” and asked for the removal of local propaganda chief Tuo Zhen, himself once a prominent investigative journalist. Journalists and interns at the Southern Weekly are also calling for Tuo’s head, saying that he was “dictatorial.” Yao Chen, one of China’s most popular actresses, posted on her Weibo account–she has 10 million followers–an Alexander Solzhenitsyn quote: “One word of truth outweighs whole world.”
The news comes just days after Google removed a feature on its search engine which notifies users of banned keywords. In October 2012, the New York Times fell victim to the censor’s black Sharpie, as access to its website was blocked on the Chinese mainland after it published a report detailing Wen Jiabao’s family wealth. New Chinese premier Xi, who was sworn in at the Communist Party National Congress in November 2012, will be watched to see how he handles the crisis.