Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Chinese protest over news censorship, Taiwanese follow developments closely

Taiwanese student leader Lin Fei-fan on Nov. 29
As a crisis over censorship at a liberal daily leads to unprecedented protests in China, Taiwan’s youth are paying close attention 

Protesters yesterday gathered at the Guangzhou headquarters of a Chinese newspaper at the center of a censorship row, in a rare demonstration of public support for media freedom in the country, with both the Taiwanese government and the leaders of a student movement against Chinese influence in local media closely watching the developments.

Hundreds of people, including students and white-collar workers, gathered outside the Southern Weekly’s office, holding signs and shouting slogans calling for freedom of speech, political reform, constitutional governance and democracy […] 

According to posts on microblogging site Sina Weibo, organizers have invited supporters to gather at Guangzhou Parkway at noon tomorrow to show their support by singing the song Beautiful Island (美麗島), one of the key inspirational songs used by the pro-democracy movement in Taiwan during authoritarian rule. The Chinese authorities prohibited the song in 1980. 

I had a chance today to discuss developments in Guangzhou with Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆), one of the student leaders in Taiwan behind the protests against media monopoly, growing Chinese influence, and the acquisition of Next Media by a conglomerate that includes the China-friendly Want Want China Times Group. Lin raised the very important point that Chinese have a stake in ensuring that media remains free in Taiwan, if only for their own future liberties. From my article in the Taipei Times:

Taiwanese youths were also paying attention to what was happening in Guangzhou. Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆), one of the student leaders in the recent wave of Taiwanese protests against the monopolization of and growing Chinese influence in local media, told the Taipei Times that the movement was closely watching developments surrounding the Southern Weekly incident. 

Lin said that although there was no direct link between the student those who signed the petition at the Chinese universities on Sunday, he hoped that both sides could inspire and learn from each other. “No matter what, the movements from both sides will serve as an inspiration for one another,” he said. 

Lin also said the Chinese had an interest in ensuring that freedoms in Taiwan were not undermined by Beijing’s influence. “Although Taiwan enjoys freedom of the press and democracy, they are weakening at the moment. As they fight for their own freedom, Chinese students should seek to prevent this from occurring in Taiwan,” he said. 

“Chinese students are very brave in fighting despite being under very strict government control,” he said, adding that state control over the media and limits to freedom were much more stringent in China. Lin said he hoped that Chinese would continue to fight for their rights and that people who desire freedom would unite. “Taiwanese students will support them, always,” he said. 

The full article can be accessed here.

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