The clampdown comes on the first anniversary of a rare newsroom
strike at the Southern Weekly over censorship, which some experts
say was the trigger for tighter controls on Chinese media in the
past year under President Xi Jinping.
At least three activists contacted by Reuters said they would not
join the protest after being warned by police.
"In recent days, those who were planning to mark the anniversary
were either asked to meet (police), warned, put under house
detention, forced to go on holiday ... or were detained," said Wu
Wei, also known by his pen-name Ye Du, the Guangzhou-based deputy
head of the Independent Chinese Pen Center, which campaigns for
freedom of expression in China.
Security was tight outside the gates of the Southern Media Group,
which owns the Southern Weekly, with at least eight police vans and
jeeps parked outside, and scores of uniformed and plainclothes
police patrolling the area.
Police at the scene declined to comment.
Journalists at the weekly went on strike for several days last year
after censors scrapped a New Year editorial calling for China to
enshrine constitutional rights. The strike ended after local
propaganda officials promised to take a lighter hand with
Prior to the run-in with the censors, the Southern Weekly had earned
a reputation for pushing the boundaries in pursuing agenda-setting,
"For the government, these kinds of commemorative events and street
activities are not tolerated within their social stability
framework," said Wu. "They have ... pre-emptively clamped down on
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On Saturday, police raided the home of activist Liang Songji, taking
him into custody along with three others, according to two activists
and online microblogging accounts.
Sui Muqing, a rights lawyer, said police had forced their way into
A rights lawyer in Guangzhou, Liu Shihui, was also detained and his
whereabouts remained unknown, said Human Rights in China, an
Prior to Saturday's detention, two other prominent rights activists
in Guangzhou, Guo Feixiong and Liu Yuandong, were charged with
assembling a crowd to "disrupt public order" during protests last
year in support of the strike. The pair are expected to stand trial
this month in Guangzhou.
In the protests last year outside the newspaper gates, some
activists called for greater rights and democracy and lay wreaths of
flowers in support of the journalists in a rare case of a
politically charged street protest being tolerated by local
Since then, the government has tightened control over the media,
punishing bloggers for spreading rumors on popular microblogging
services, while media outlets nationwide have come under greater
state scrutiny, according to many Chinese journalists.
(Additional reporting by Venus Wu; editing by Dean Yates)
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