Promises from China's new leaders to allow more free speech suffered a double blow after the website of a leading magazine was shut down and a provincial censor replaced a new year message in a major newspaper.
Staff at the Yanhuang Chunqiu (Annals of the Yellow Emperor), an intellectually liberal monthly, returned after new year to discover that the licence for their website had been cancelled by the ministry of industry and information technology.
There was speculation that the shutdown was linked to an article in the January edition of the magazine suggesting that China's road map for political reform might begin with its own constitution.
Wu Si, acting editor of the magazine, said he was not sure if there was a connection: "The article wasn't published until December 31, and it wasn't put online at all. If that was the reason, they would have taken some time to shut us down," he said. "We've been asked to take down articles so many times, but this time, we simply received a message."
The website head, Zhang Xiao Ou, said he had been told the reason, but was not yet able to reveal it.
Meanwhile, 60 journalists from the Southern Weekly, in Guangdong province, issued a complaint on Thursday over their newspaper's new year message, which was abruptly pulled and replaced by the province's chief censor. Another group of 35 former reporters from the paper called yesterday (Friday) for the resignation of the propaganda chief. A Foreign ministry spokesman stated in a daily briefing that "there is no media censorship in China".