A southern Chinese news company at the center of free speech protests early this year has come under fire for turning against demonstrators who sought to defend it in a dispute with censors.

The Southern Media Group is the Guangzhou-based owner of a weekly newspaper whose editorial staff staged a rare but short-lived revolt against censorship in January. Supporters turned up at their gates.

Nearly a year later, at least three of the protesters are now likely to face public disturbance charges.

The media group is being criticized for declaring in a statement to police that the protests interfered with the operations of the news company, effectively providing evidence likely to be used against the activists.

Among those criticizing the company are some of its current and former staff.