Questions for an editor

This is Danwei Week, a summary of the most important China stories from the last seven days. We’ll choose a maximum of five topics per week, and try to link to the best coverage of them in English. Let us know your suggestions or send hate mail to: feedback -at- danwei dot com.

Questions for the editor of the South China Morning Post
From Asia Sentinel:

Journalistic ethics questioned at SCMP
A decision by the South China Morning Post’s new editor in chief, Wang Xiangwei, to reduce a major breaking story on the suspicious death of Tiananmen dissident Li Wangyang in a Hunan hospital to a brief has kicked off a new controversy at the paper.

Reuters picked up on the story, titling it ‘China casts long shadow as Hong Kong paper stands accused of censorship’ (link). Asia Sentinel followed up with a piece reflecting statements from Wang Xiangwei: ‘SCMP Editor Says He Didn’t Downplay Dissident’s Death’ (link). The article notes:

The South China Morning Post has long been considered a largely objective observer of affairs in the mainland and an important window into the country for diplomats, businessmen and others, giving it an outsize importance in the region.

That may have once been true, and the South China Morning Post remains influential in Hong Kong. But in mainland China and across Asia, in Europe, Australia and the USA, the Post has almost no influence at all thanks to its Cretaceous digital policy.

Niubi (the Twitter winner of Danwei’s Model Worker awards) has more influence on global ‘diplomats, businessmen and others’ than the poor old Post, with its doomed business model, absence from the open Internet, and reliance on the patronage of the Kuok family. The Post‘s slide into irrelevance is a shame, but it’s already a mere sideshow thanks to a decade of dumb digital decisions.

One ought perhaps not to be too critical of the pompous tone of Wang Xiangwei’s emails as reported in the articles mentioned above. He is merely continuing a South China Morning Post tradition of supercilious and humorless actions by chief editors. In 2007, for example, then editor Mark Clifford fired two staff members for producing an in-house spoof of the newspaper’s front page as a gift for a departing colleague. See Asia Sentinel’s report No Joking Please, We’re Journalists, and on ESWN, The Cultural Gap in Hong Kong Journalism.

Update (June 28, 2012):
Prize-Winning Reporter Driven out of SCMP – an account by award-winning veteran China journalist Paul Mooney. See also a Danwei post from 2006: South China Morning Post seeks obscurity on Internet.

Space travel and abortions: ‘One woman touches heaven, another hell’
On Saturday, Liu Yang became China’s first female astronaut as the Shenzhou 9 launched into outerspace. The Shenzhou 9 later succeeded in successfully docking with the spacecraft Tiangong 1, China’s first such docking with a crew of astronauts on board. (You can watch the video here, or see Xinhua’s official coverage and graphics.

Back on earth, many Chinese Weibo users contrasted Liu Yang’s journey to the heavens with a far less fortunate woman: Feng Jianmei, a resident of rural Shaanxi, was forced to abort her seven-month old fetus due to her inability to pay a 40,000 yuan fine. A horrific photograph of mother and dead fetus lying together on a hospital bed was circulating online at that same time state media were blasting the nation with images of Shenzhou 9 and the female taikonaut on board. On Weibo, users circulated photo montages showing a smiling Liu Yang together with Feng and her dead fetus. Race car driver and blogger Han Han summed up the situation in a short comment: “One country, two words: torn apart.”
Tea Leaf Nation has the best roundup of Chinese Internet discussion of the above: Netizens Reflect As One Chinese Woman Touches Heaven, Another Hell. See also Evan Osnos at The New Yorker: Abortion and politics in China.

Death of Nigerian man prompts street demonstrations by Africans in Guangzhou
From the Wall Street Journal‘s China blog:

Protests by Africans in Guangzhou this week over the death of a Nigerian man in police custody prompted wide reactions online and served to draw attention to tensions between locals and the southern city’s large population of African immigrants.(link)

The China Daily reports that the ‘Nigerian embassy in Beijing has sent officials to Guangzhou to cope with the investigation of a Nigerian’s death in police custody’ (link).

ChinaSMACK covers some of the Chinese Internet reactions; predictably, there are many racist comments about ‘black devils’ and such.

Drogba to China
One African man is getting a much friendlier reception in China: the football player Drogba who is from the west African country of Côte d’Ivoire. The Guardian reports:

On the subject of football, another must read this week is Playing fake ball: Why Chinese soccer matters by The New Yorker‘s Evan Osnos. Read it together with the preciously-titled Little red card: Why China fails at football, published in December 2011 in The Economist.

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