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China: Southern Weekly protests end peacefully, with possible deal from Party (VIDEO)

Communist Party official said to have offered Southern Weekly deal in censorship protest, strike.

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A woman wearing a mask saying "a barrier for speech" in Chinese rallies in Guangzhou on January 8, 2013. Protesters rallied for a second day to call for press freedom in China, as social media users and celebrities backed a campaign which poses a test for the nation's new leaders. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Free-speech rallies continued today in China as support for the Southern Weekly newspaper’s stance against censorship gained powerful advocates.

After marchers — some carrying signs calling for free press, some wearing Guy Fawkes masks — laid flowers at the newspaper offices in a sign of respect, there was word of a deal to end an editorial strike.

Al Jazeera reported that a leading Communist Party official has stepped in to negotiate a settlement with striking editors, who said they wouldn't print a new edition this week.

“He [Hu Chunhua] gets personal image points by showing that he has guts and the ability to resolve complex situations,” an anonymous source told Al Jazeera.

“In addition, the signal that he projects through this is one of relative openness; it’s a signal of a leader who is relatively steady.”

If they accept the deal, Southern Weekly workers would print as usual without punishment, according to Al Jazeera.

Popular bloggers, actors and executives showed their support for the activist newspaper’s stance on censorship when it went public with details of a nixed New Year’s editorial.

Southern Weekly writers complained when a Communist Party censor changed an editorial calling for political reform into a message praising China’s current leadership.

More from GlobalPost: Chinese journalists at Southern Weekly protest censorship

The newspaper has called for the party official's resignation.

Its bravery led to supportive demonstrations outside the newspaper’s offices today, and virtual protests from some of China’s leading figures, AFP reported.

Among them was actors Yao Chen and Chen Kun, who posted messages on China’s Twitter alternative, Weibo.

Yao Chen, who has 32 million followers, posted the newspaper’s logo and a quote from Russian author Alexandr Solzhenitsyn that said, “One word of truth shall outweigh the whole world.”

Chen Kun, to 27 million followers, said simply, “I am not that deep, and don’t play with words, I support the friends at Southern Weekly.”

In Guangzhou, hundreds carried signs or flowers while some wore masks as others defied police and posed for surveillance photos undaunted by possible persecution.

Communist Party supporters in the southern city also turned out for the protests, The Associated Press reported, although they appeared to be outnumbered.

“Southern Weekly is the only mainland newspaper that, relatively speaking, is more able to report the truth,” activist Cheng Qiubo told the AP. “We are very angry that it has been censored.”

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/china/130108/southern-weekly-protest-strike-china-free-speech