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A statue of former Communist Party chief Hu Yaobang, a reformer whose death sparked the Tiananmen Square democracy protests, is unveiled in Taizhou, east China's Zhejiang province on January 6, 2013. - 

Crowds of people gathered for the second time today outside the offices of a prominent newspaper in China. Up to 100 journalists are in an open dispute with the government about censorship at the Southern Weekly which is based in the southern province of Guangdong.

The row began when a New Year message in the paper that had called for guaranteed constitutional rights was changed by censors prior to publication and replaced with one which praised the communist party.

The BBC's Martin Patience in Beijing says the journalists are angry because the propaganda chief in that part of the country didn't consult the editors.

"This is a protest against the level of censorship in China. They're not calling for complete freedom of expression, but they want more space in the media environment."

Patience says this is a rare but significant protest because China has just installed a new generation of leaders and in many ways this represents their first political test.

"Those pushing for greater freedoms of expression will be looking very carefully at how China's new leaders handle this case to get some sign of perhaps how they might govern over the next decade."

The next edition is due out on Thursday but editors and propaganda officials are negotiating over the terms under which the journalists would be willing to publish.