Chinese government-controlled newspapers have openly criticized the detention of a village official who called for the end of Communist Party rule, an extraordinary move that some media experts see as a sign that Beijing is granting more leeway on free speech.
The campaign is all the more remarkable because Ren Jianyu, 25, was sentenced to a labour camp for posting online messages that called for the downfall of the party’s “dictatorship” – sentiments that would normally mark him out for harsh treatment by China’s media, assuming they gave any coverage at all.
But several outlets – including the influential Global Times tabloid, owned by Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily, and The Beijing News newspaper – have criticized Ren’s two-year sentence and called for more freedom for people to criticize authorities.
“It’s worrying that people can still be punished for expressing or writing critical thoughts in modern China,” Yu Jincui wrote in a Global Times commentary last week.

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