Reporters Without Borders said it could only welcome Long Xinmin’s replacement today as the head of China’s General Administration of Press and Publications (GAPP), as his tenure was marked by an increase in censorship of the press, publishing and Internet.
"But we are saddened to learn that Long is leaving this key post with France’s Legion of Honour, an award which he in no way deserves," the press freedom organisation said, announcing that it would ask French foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy why he was given it. "A censor in the service of an authoritarian government should not be rewarded with a decoration intended for those who defend the French Republic’s values."
"After the scandal surrounding the award of the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, it is important that the French government should stop bestowing this decoration on authoritarian presidents or senior officials who prey on freedoms," Reporters Without Borders added.
When France’s ambassador to China, Hervé Ladsous, bestowed the award on Long at a ceremony in Beijing on 3 April, he hailed Long’s commitment to communication and the press. He noted the importance of press freedom, but made no mention of Long’s draconian censorship measures.
The Chinese government today announced Long’s replacement by Liu Binjie as head of the GAPP. Long as been relegated to the post of deputy director of the Communist Party’s Central Party History Research Centre.
Long steadily stepped up state control over the media and publishing after taking over as the GAPP’s director in 2005. He recently had eight books by well-known writers banned. Two of the writers went to the courts to challenge the ban. The censored 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 (which is about the Chinese media) and "This is how it goes at sars.com" by Hu Fayun.
They were on a list of books which "overstepped the limits in 2006," the authorities said. Also on the list was a book about Mao’s "Great Leap Forward" and one by someone who ran as an independent candidate in a local election.