The Chinese authorities have shut down a fashionable and influential magazine run by one of the world's most popular bloggers, whose subtle questioning of power in China appears to have irritated the ruling Communist Party.
Party magazine, published by Han Han, a glamorous figure who, in addition to being known as a dashing racing car driver, writes novels and a blog, appeared to have been blocked by government officials after only one issue.
The first edition of Party, which has a less edgy title in Chinese – Solo Chorus – sold 1.5 million copies. It was a top seller on Amazon.com's Chinese language retail site and was characterised by beautiful calligraphy on plain brown paper, with lengthy articles and mostly monochrome pictures or the kind of washed-out colour photographs favoured by publications such as Monocle or Wallpaper.
It was not overtly political, but questioned some of the mores of Chinese contemporary society. The first issue featured poetry, essays, and part of an upcoming novel by Han, entitled I Want to Have a Talk With the World.
Han said he was not convinced that propaganda officials objected to the magazine and believed he may have been the victim of a grudge within the Communist Party structure. He said in a blog posting that he was unsure which department had taken action and why they had objected to the magazine.
China's censors keep a tight rein on the media and quickly shut down any publications seen to be stepping on official toes. Han's subtle but questioning approach clearly has angered someone high up, though the government's options are limited when dealing with someone like him.
Han's website has registered hundreds of millions of hits and he is so famous that if he were arrested it would be likely to provoke a backlash – and the leadership cannot afford to alienate the country's youth.
The second issue was due to hit shelves in late August but was postponed. Han, listed as one of the world's 50 most influential thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine, said in September that he had been unable to find a publisher. Now he appears resigned to the end of the magazine. He said his partners had so far refused to explain.
"Perhaps it's because there are too many relevant people in too many relevant departments," wrote Han, using the kind of language that has earned him such a huge readership for his cleverly veiled criticisms of contemporary China.
"So many people have the ability to turn a piece of literature and art into a relic. "I myself don't know exactly what has happened or what friend I may have insulted."
But Han's legions of supporters were insistent that the magazine had just been put on hold, not cancelled. "Han Han bought wine for the successful release of the second issue, but now it will be sealed up for a few years," wrote the managing editor of Party when the news broke that the latest edition of the magazine had been blocked.
"He'll be back," one supporter wrote about Han on the Chinese version of Twitter.
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