The Communist Party leader of Guangdong province has stepped in to help mediate a row over censorship at a Chinese newspaper, a source said, in a potentially encouraging sign for press freedoms in China.

The Guangdong Communist Party Committee reportedly said on Tuesday that Hu Chunhua, a rising political figure who took office last month, had offered a solution to the dispute that led to some staff at the Southern Weekly paper going on strike.

The dispute began late last week when reporters at the liberal newspaper accused censors of replacing a New Year letter to readers that called for a constitutional government with another piece praising the party's achievements.

Under Hu's deal, the source said, newspaper workers would end their strike and return to work, the paper would print as
normal this week, and most staff would not face punishment. 

"Guangdong's Hu personally stepped in to resolve this," the source said.

"He gets personal image points by showing that he has guts and the ability to resolve complex situations. 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."

The censorship row at the Southern Weekly, long seen as a beacon of independent and in-depth reporting in China's highly controlled media arena, has led to demands for the country's new leadership to grant greater media freedoms.

The apparent concessions by authorities in the dispute could be seen as an indicator of reforms by China's new leader Xi Jinping. 

It was not possible to immediately corroborate Hu's involvement in brokering the deal with editorial staff, who may
be bound by an agreement not to speak out.

Source: Agencies