censorship

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Esther Bintliff

Demonstrators outside the offices of Southern Weekend in Guangzhou, January 8 (AFP/Getty)

Demonstrators outside the offices of Southern Weekend in Guangzhou on January 8 (AFP/Getty)

Any government that is intent on controlling public debate has traditionally had a number of tools at its disposal. Direct ownership of the press, punishment of unruly journalists or artists and the promotion of malleable ones, book burning, propaganda … the list goes on. The internet, a sprawling, uncontrollable and ever-growing beast may have given birth to a new set of challenges for modern totalitarian powers, but China has thrown its resources at the problem with gusto, keeping a lid on simmering dissent with a mix of technology, commercial incentives, legal restrictions and carefully selected pressure valves.

That is partly why the open revolt by journalists in Guangzhou this past week was so surprising – because it suggested that, just occasionally, spontaneous anger and frustration could yet circumvent the great firewall of China, even if only briefly.

In the FT

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Demonstrations over censorship in China and Obama’s pick for US defence secretary
Could the demonstrations over censorship at Southern Weekend newspaper be a significant turning point in the battle for free speech in China? Kathrin Hille reports from Guangzhou. In Washington, President Obama has nominated Chuck Hagel, to be the next US defence secretary. But the former Republican Senator is a controversial figure, with some pro-Israel groups going so far as to accuse him of antisemitism. So why select him, and why now? Washington-based diplomatic correspondent Geoff Dyer joins Gideon Rachman to discuss.

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