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Chinese newspaper editors fired over ad saluting mothers of Tiananmen victims

A newspaper in southwest China has sacked three of its editors over an advertisement saluting mothers of protesters killed in the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

A young clerk with no knowledge of the Tiananmen massacre allowed a tribute to victims to slip into the classifieds page of the Chengdu Evening News, a newspaper in south-west China, the South China Morning Post reported. The tiny ad on page 14 of the newspaper on Monday read: "Saluting the strong mothers of victims of 64."

Six-four (June 4) is the most commonly used expression for the crackdown on that day in 1989, when hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators and their supporters were killed by People's Liberation Army tanks and troops. (Jeff Widener/AP)

Six-four (June 4) is the most commonly used expression for the crackdown on that day in 1989, when hundreds, possibly thousands, of pro-democracy demonstrators and their supporters were killed by People's Liberation Army tanks and troops.

The South China Morning Post reported that a young woman on the Chengdu Evening News classified section had allowed the ad to be published because she had never heard of the June 4 military crackdown, in which hundreds — or even thousands — of protesters died. All reference to the Tiananmen incident is banned in China.

She did, however, phone the person who placed the ad to ask for an explanation and he told her it was in tribute to the victims of a mining accident. Two other papers in Chengdu were asked to take the same ad but its editorial staff refused to take it, realising the risks involved.

Chinese authorities launched an investigation to find out how the advertisement slipped past censors. Reuters reported Thursday that three editorial staff on Chengdu Wanbao in Sichuan province had been dismissed for letting through the one-line advertisement. The deputy chief editor, Li Zhaojun, is reportedly one of those hit by the dismissal, which was decided on after an official investigation. Staff at the newspaper, which is a 32-page tabloid with a circulation of 200,000, refused to comment when they were contacted by the Guardian.

“These three journalists are innocent victims twice over,” Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) said. “They let through this ad, because one of their staff didn’t know what happened on 4 June 1989, so relentless is censorship about this episode.”

“These journalists have as a result fallen victim to a purge, which is typical of this government. We call on the authorities to lift these sanctions and to put an end to the censorship of the events of June 4, 1989”, it said. The organisation said it also feared that whoever sent in the advertisement to the paper would be arrested and given a harsh prison sentence.

Date posted: June 7, 2007 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 3444