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China 3 December 2004

Reformist journalists and intellectuals punished and censored

Reporters Without Borders has alerted the European delegation to the EU-China summit in the Netherlands on 8 December that China has launched a new crackdown against reformists.

The Propaganda Department blacklisted six renowned political commentators from the state-owned press in November 2004. The authorities have also curbed coverage on the role of intellectuals in the development of China. Journalist Wang Guangze has been sacked under official pressure.

As Prime Minister Wen Jiabao attends the EU-China summit, a new wave of censorship and repression has been unleashed, said the worldwide press freedom organisation.

These sanctions from another age, sidelining liberals from political life, threatened to damage the credibility of reforms instituted by Wen Jibao’s government, it said.

Some 25 Chinese journalists and 62 cyberdissidents are currently imprisoned, the organisation pointed out.

The Chinese Communist Party’s Propaganda Department at the start of November ordered official media to stop publishing articles from the six reformist political commentators.

Among them was Jiao Guobiao professor of journalism at Beijing University, who called for the propaganda department to be abolished and for the holding of free elections. The university, under official pressure, cancelled his journalism course in September.

The China Information Centre identified the other five blacklisted commentators as: veteran communist party member Li Rui, writers and political editorialists Wang Yi and Yu Jie, the director of the Tianze Economic Research Institute, Mao Yushi and Yao Lifa, a peasants’ rights activist in Hubei Province, eastern China.

The Propaganda Department has been waging a struggle against reformist intellectuals, banning them from using the state-owned press to publicly raise concerns about the country’s poorest and to promote social justice.

Finally, Wang Guangze, of the bi-weekly Ershiyi shiji jingji baodao (The 21st Century Business Herald) was sacked on 23 November on his return from the United States where he attended, with official permission, a seminar on ethics and new technology at Trinity College Connecticut. Wang, 32, gave a paper entitled, "The development and possible evolution of political ecology in China in the age of the Internet"

His talk focused on how the Internet is currently transforming the political landscape and civil society, despite official controls.

On his return the journalist was told he had been dismissed for being "absent" and for "poor quality work" over the previous two months for his newspaper, published by the press group Nanfang Daily. Wang was however quoted by Hong Kong daily South China Morning Post as saying that he had been promised a promotion before he left for the United States.

"The authorities have learned newer, more sophisticated and very effective techniques to control the press," he added.

Wang suffered four years of unemployment after being dismissed from the Legal Daily in 1999 for defending the wife of a pro-democracy dissident.

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