An article published in the latest edition of Yanhuang Chunqiu 炎黄春秋 is said to have infuriated a former CCP leader, prompting speculation that the esteemed academic journal will be the next victim of China’s notorious censorship regime. According to Yazhou Zhoukan 亚洲周刊 (used to be the Chinese edition of Asiaweek and is now a Hong Kong based pro-China magazine), Beijing will impose a restructuring order on the Journal’s editorial board, in an attempt to neutralize the influence of a group of discontented Party veterans.
The article in question is a cover story about Zhao Ziyang 赵紫阳. This is the first positive account of Zhao to appear in any PRC publications since he was removed from leadership in 1989. The article was penned by Sun Zhen 孙振, the retired chief of Xinhua’s Sichuan branch. Sun served under Zhao during the Cultural Revolution. The article, which reaffirmed the popularity of Zhao among Sichuan peasants, was seen as a direct challenge to the official verdict of Zhao and of his mistakes in handling the Tiananmen Square incident.
Yanhuang Chunqiu is often seen as critical of the present CCP leadership. The Journal was inaugurated in 1991 under the patronage of senior party officials sympathetic to Hu Yaobang 胡耀邦. The editorial team headed by Du Daozheng 杜导正 openly advocates a gradual transition to liberal democracy, and has been critical of the government’s lack of tolerance of voices of dissident, as well as its inability to curb widespread corruption throughout the country. The Journal has a loyal readership among party veterans and intellectuals. With a circulation of over 80,000 copies, the Journal is financially independent and is believed to have received no government funding or commercial sponsorship.
RFA has confirmed the news of the restructuring last Friday afternoon in an interview with Yang Jisheng 杨继绳, the Deputy Editor of Yanhuang Chunqiu. China’s Ministry of Culture has notified Du and other cadres on the editorial board in late October of their replacement and imminent retirement. The news immediately followed the death of the Journal’s inner-party defender General Xiao Ke 萧克 on 25 October.
The forced restructuring has been widely condemned as “the most dramatic display of media censorship since June Fourth” 六四事件以来最大的一场封杀媒体的大戏. International observers are also keeping an eye on the fate of the Journal, as China is making preparations ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square incident.