Reporters Without Borders relays the petition launched by 100 intellectuals and journalists condemning the closure of the Century China website and calling for more freedom on the Internet.
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The people who ran Century China, a very influential website among Chinese intellectuals, have posted a statement on the Internet that contains the text of the official message ordering its closure. It shows that Century China was accused of violating the September 2005 law which Reporters Without Borders dubbed the “Internet 11 Commandments”.
The message was sent by the Monitoring Bureau of the Beijing Communications Administration to the Beijing Zhongqing Future Community Culture Development Research Institute, which founded Century China jointly with the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2000. The message says:
“The Century China website www.cc.org.cn and the Century Salon forum www.ccforum.org.cn (Internet Content Provider registration number Beijing 041040), for which your institute is responsible, are not complying with the Administration’s provisions on Internet news reports and have illegally established news sections. This represents a serious violation of the Regulations of the Administration on Internet News Reports [the Internet 11 Commandments] ... Under article 19 of these Regulations, your institute must immediately close the Century China website and Century Salon forum.”
After receiving this note, those in charge of Century China asked the authorities for an explanation as the site had not published any news reports. After receiving no reply, they decided not to close the site of their own accord, thereby refusing to let the “execution” be portrayed as “suicide.” They had heeded the Internet 11 Commandments and had made all the necessary changes to Century China to bring it into compliance, they said. As the site was therefore completely legal, its forced closure was “based on no logic” and was “unacceptable,” they added.
The statement is available on the Boxun website (in Chinese)
Century China website and a magazine’s chat forum shut down in new wave of censorship
Reporters Without Borders today called for the immediate reopening of Century China (Shiji Zhongguo), one of the most influential websites for Chinese intellectuals, and the chat forum of the magazine Life Week (Sanlian Shenghuo Zhoukan), which carried foreign media reports. Century China stopped posting articles by its contributors at the behest of the authorities yesterday, while the Life Week forum was suddenly closed down without explanation.
“In a country where self-censorship reigns, these sites allowed Internet users to express themselves freely on sensitive subjects and to access news they would never find in the traditional media,” Reporters Without Borders said. “At a time when the Chinese Internet seems to be undergoing a new wave of censorship, we remind the authorities that their constitution is supposed to guarantee free expression.”
Visitors to the Century China website yesterday found a message by the site’s administrators saying: “After receiving a note from the competent authorities, the Century China website (www.cc.org.cn) and its chat forum (www.ccforum.org.cn) will be closed from today.” The order was issued on 24 July by the Beijing Communications Administration. In the short period before the closure took effect, hundreds of visitors had time to express their anger or sadness on the site’s forum.
Founded in July 2000 by the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Beijing Zhongqing Future Community Culture Development Research Institute, the Century China website declared its desire to be “free, independent, democratic, tolerant and rational.” Many intellectuals and dissidents - including Liu Xiaobo, the winner of the Reporters Without Borders - Fondation de France prize in 2004 in the press freedom activist category - posted articles on the site about subjects ranging from sport to politics. The discussions were very lively, making it a place for real democratic debate.
Life Week is Beijing-based cultural magazine. A regular visitor to its forum told Radio Free Asia in an interview that it broached sensitive political issues such as corruption in a very open manner. Visitors to the forum also used to post news reports from foreign news media such as the Chinese-language service of the German public radio station Deutsche Welle. It is highly likely that its closure was also carried out on orders from the authorities.
These latest cases of censorship come less than a month after the Council of States’s information office and the ministry of industry and information expressed their intention on 29 June of reinforcing their control over blogs, search engines and chat forums.
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