The Southern Weekly has been a standard-bearer for hard-edged reporting and liberal commentary since the 1990s. Throughout, senior party politicians and propaganda functionaries have repeatedly attempted to rein in the newspaper, cashiering editors and reporters who breach often unstated limits.
Even if censorship largely remains intact, the standoff has showed the breadth of support independent-minded media like Southern Weekly have among many Chinese, who are wired to the Internet and increasingly sophisticated in their expectations of the government.
That may give censors pause in the future, said David Bandurski, a China media expert at Hong Kong University.
"It might make them more cautious on how they handle the media," he said.
Associated Press writers Gillian Wong and Charles Hutzler and researchers Zhao Liang and Flora Ji in Beijing contributed to this report.
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