Free Speech in China Gets an Unlikely State-Media Backer – China Real Time Report – WSJ

China’s ruling Communist Party is cracking down on internal criticism, and the editor of one of the country’s most nationalist tabloids isn’t going to take it anymore.

In a post on his Weibo microblog over the weekend, Hu Xijin, editor in chief of the Global Times, called on Chinese authorities to show greater tolerance for dissenting opinions.

“China should open up more channels for criticism and suggestions and encourage constructive criticism,” Mr. Hu wrote on Sunday. “There also should be a certain amount of tolerance for unconstructive criticism.”

While allowing greater freedom of speech can lead to some problems, it brings greater benefits, he wrote, adding that recent Chinese history since the beginning of Communist rule in 1949 shows that freedom of speech “is inseparably linked to the vitality of society.”

“As for the problems it causes, the state has ample capacity to respond,” Mr. Hu wrote, without elaborating.

The message had received more than 2,000 comments and 1,500 “likes” as of Wednesday afternoon, on par with some of Mr. Hu’s other recent posts.

The posting comes as the Communist Party is doubling down on its efforts to stifle dissent among cadres. The sacking last November of Zhao Xinyu, an editor at a state-run newspaper, drew attention to a new tool in the party’s repertoire: the punishment of members for “groundlessly commenting” on official policies.

Introduced in a set of party rules last October, the prohibition against speaking out on national policies – known in Chinese as 妄议中央, wangyi zhongyang – is likely to have a chilling effect on political discussion within China, experts say.

It wasn’t clear whether Mr. Hu’s posting was in reaction to the new regulation – although some of the comments on his post indicated that the issue is on Chinese Internet users’ minds. “Aren’t you afraid of [being fired for] groundlessly commenting on official policies?” one user wrote.

Source: Free Speech in China Gets an Unlikely State-Media Backer – China Real Time Report – WSJ

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