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China 25 January 2007

Culture minister urged to step in and get ban lifted on eight books

Reporters Without Borders today called on Chinese culture minister Sun Jiazheng to intervene to get a newly-imposed ban lifted on eight books - some by journalists - about social developments in recent years in China. The books were banned last week by Wu Shulin, the deputy director of the General Administration of Press and Publications (GAPP).

“The GAPP’s control over publications is very disturbing,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Aside from the censorship of these eight books, it is the freedom of expression of all Chinese journalists and intellectuals that is being violated.”

The press freedom organisation added: “The government must lose no time in ensuring that the GAPP stops exercising authoritarian control over all books in China. As things stand, publishers have to get a licence from this department every time they want to bring out a new book.”

The eight newly-banned books include Past Stories of Peking Opera Stars by Zhang Yihe, the memoirs of People’s Daily journalist Yuan Ying, The Press by Zhu Huaxiang (about the Chinese news media) and This is how it goes at by Hu Fayun. They are on a list of books which, according to the Communist Party of China’s Propaganda Department, “overstepped the line” in 2006. They also include a book about the Maoist “Great Leap Forward” and one about an independent candidate for local elections.

Several press reports quoted GAPP deputy director Wu as saying Yuan’s book divulged state secrets and that all the publishers should be severely punished.

Zhang described the accusations against her as “anti-revolutionary” and voiced frustration at the fact that her last two books were also banned. She said she would take the issue to the courts. “Chinese intellectuals have been deprived of all rights to free speech,” Zhang said. “If we keep silent today, tomorrow they can do the same thing to other writers and eventually the entire intellectual community will be muzzled.”

Hu said the bans were aimed at “twisting history by erasing people’s memories,” but called them ridiculous and said they would not prevent people from getting access to the books on the Internet.

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