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China 17 February 2006

Bing Dian reopened under tight control as new sanctions slapped on investigative journalists

Reporters Without Borders is sickened by cynicism of the Publicity Department (formerly Propaganda Department) which has authorised the reappearance of the Bing Dian (Freezing point), supplement of the daily Zhongguo Qingnian Bao (China Youth Daily) after removing its editor and best investigative journalist.

Elsewhere, two journalists, one in Xinjiang in the north-west and the other in Beijing have recently been punished for investigating sensitive topics.

"The reappearance of Bing Dian is an act of bogus leniency. The investigative weekly has had its two prime movers cut away and replaced by a loyal communist party journalist," said Reporters Without Borders.

"While the crackdown and censorship of the media is being contested by veterans of the Chinese communist party, sanctions continue to bite. They confirm the determination of Hu Jintao to gag the press to prevent it from revealing the failings of the regime," it said.

The China Youth Daily announced on 16 February 2006 that its weekly supplement, Bing Dian would be back on the streets on 1st March. On the other hand, its editor, Li Datong, and its chief investigative journalist, Lu Yaogang, have been moved to the daily’s research centre, which according to several sources is a "way of sidelining retired people who deal with statistics and working conditions at the paper".

The authorities have named Chen Xiaochun to replace the editor, a faithful member of China’s Youth League. He will be responsible for the weekly’s editorial line and is to publish in the next issue an attack against the article, "Modernisation and history books" - related to the foreign occupation of China at the end of the 19th Century - which was used to justify the suspension of Bing Dian on 25 January.

Reporters Without Borders was also able to confirm that the authorities have stepped up control of the discussion forum Jizhe De Jia (www.xici.net/b6775/board.asp), often used by China’s journalistic community. It has also been able to confirm that the words "your message has been deleted and your details registered" is sent to Internet-users when filters detect a word banned by the authorities. Users are blacklisted when they send several messages containing words such as "democracy" or "Bing Dian".

Elsewhere, on 8 February 2006, Chen Jieren, 34, editor of the Tuesday edition of the Beijing daily Gongli Shibao, has been demoted to simply sub-editor by the management. This decision follows a complaint from the Chinese government to the Ministry of Public Affairs in the charge of the daily, about an article that referred to translation errors in the English version of the official site of the Chinese Communist Party. "This article negatively impacts on the image of the Chinese government," the government said.

Chen Jieren had also in January published an investigation into corrupt officials who embezzled money earmarked as compensation for flood damage in central Shaanxi province. The daily had also published a portrait of President Hu Jintao, although only the official news agency Xinhua is authorised to do so.

Journalist Wan Weimin, in charge of judicial affairs on Xinjiang Jingji Baoshe (Xinjiang Financial Journal), was dismissed by his management in January for having submitted an article about some 30 families living in the region’s forests because they had not been paid since 2002. The journalist took up their case after the local party head rejected their complaint.

This official repression was strongly challenged in an open letter published on 14 February 2006 by veterans of the Chinese Communist Party. "This harsh censorship sows the seeds of a real disaster. How can one forget the bloody lessons that Chinese history has given us each time power is wielded through violence?, said the 13 signatories, including the former head of the Propaganda Department, Zhu Houze, a former editor on the People’s Daily, Hu Jiwei, as well as former personal secretary to Mao Zedong, Li Rui. They called for the reappearance of Bing Dian, which sells about 400,000 copies.




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