Li Chengpeng: China needs one truthful newspaper, not an aircraft carrier

January 09, 2013

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Protesters in China lashed out after a Communist Party bureaucrat spiked an article in the Southern Weekly (Nanfang Zhoumo) weekly newspaper and ordered it rewritten--and perhaps none has been more outspoken than Li Chengpeng.

Li, a 44-year-old writer living in Sichuan province, runs a miniblog that addresses questions of social injustice. It has 6.58 million followers.

Excerpts from an interview with The Asahi Shimbun follow:

* * *

"We don't need high-rise buildings, the status of the world's second-largest economy, or an aircraft carrier. What China needs now is a newspaper that tells the truth.

That is because the right to tell the truth represents human dignity. Major powers that command respect worldwide possess newspapers that speak the truth.

Our authorities have long exerted control on speech, but this time they altered an article and made a newspaper tell lies.

To me, this feels as if the insult toward freedom of speech has been lifted up a level. I cannot stand it, and I believe many other people feel the same.

China's Constitution recognizes freedom of speech. The new party leadership advocates the rule of law. It should therefore sponsor freedom of speech--but doesn't. The reality is different.

That is because the ideal of the rule of law conflicts with the vested interests of people in power.

I've felt pressure. I've been braced to see my blog shut down. Yet, we are not challenging the government. We just want China to become a better country.

The fact that many people have raised their voice this time has great significance. This is the first step on a long road toward achieving freedom of speech."

(This article is based on an interview by Nozomu Hayashi.)

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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