China Relaxes Censorship Controls after Protests

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In response to protestors, China's local government propaganda authority has reportedly made a deal to relax censorship controls over Southern Weekly, a well-known liberal newspaper, Wednesday.

The controversy started New Year's Day when the Southern Weekly was set to publish an article calling for the government to respect freedom and human rights.

Under pressure, the editors replaced it with a story celebrating the government's achievements.

Hundreds of staff, readers, and human rights activists protested outside the paper's offices in Guangzhou, China. They carried signs demanding freedom of press and freedom of speech.

"I'm here to say the Southern Weekly is not alone. There are lots of people supporting them," a female protestor said.

"If we always have censorship and the media face shutdown everyday, the media becomes a tool to cheat the people, is there any hope for this country?" another protestor argued.

A veteran foreign reporter based in Beijing said it is the first time since 1989 that Chinese journalists are saying no and striking against government censorship.

"This act of suppressing the freedom of the press should be changed," he said.

China is notorious for censoring the press and Internet. More than 350 million people have access to the Internet in China but only a portion of the world wide web is available to online users.

In neighboring North Korea, censorship is also practiced. But Americans have taken on their battle.

On Wednesday, Google Executive Eric Schmidt and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson spent the day visiting a computer lab in Pyongyang.

"We've been meeting with a variety of foreign affairs officials, Internet officials, scientists, political leaders," Richardson said.

The two are on a four-day trip to the communist nation, pressing the reclusive nation to, among other things, give people access to the Internet and cell phones.

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