Friday, April 25, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: The Banning of The World Economic Herald

While "it appeared that almost all students at Beijing's universities were honoring the boycott [of classes]", New York Times on April 15, 1989, reported a more startling development in the southern city of Shanghai:

In its firmest action so far to stem the growing student campaign for more democracy, the Communist Party today banned an issue of a popular newspaper that published comments openly supporting the demonstrators.
The latest issue of the banned weekly newspaper, The World Economic Herald, had already been printed and contained some of the boldest criticisms of the Communist Party ever published in a major Chinese newspaper. But the party today prohibited the distribution of the newspaper, according to Chinese familiar with the order.
Qin Benli, the editor in chief of the Shanghai-based newspaper, which has a circulation of 300,000, was not in the office this afternoon. The deputy editor in chief, Zhu Xinqun, confirmed in a telephone interview that the newspaper was not distributed today as it normally is on Mondays. Mr. Zhu declined to say why it did not appear.
Several people familiar with the banning said that a Politburo member, Jiang Zemin, who is also party leader in Shanghai, gave the order that The Herald could not be distributed. It was not clear if the order originated with him or someone higher.

The banned issue of the World Economic Herald contained a six-page long proceedings of a symposium of prominent intellectuals commemorating Hu Yaobang. The speakers have included Yan Jiaqi and Dai Qing. Yan was quoted in NYT as saying, "the main problem China has had, up to today, is the lack of democracy." and "Some people who were in charge of ideology have no right to mourn Hu. They stabbed him in the back. They should be tried by history."

This sweep action by Jiang Zemin appeared to have served himself well. Coupled with a "swift management" of the student movement in Shanghai during the period, Jiang ended up becoming the chosen successor of Deng Xiaoping.

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