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China 17 July 2007

Cyber police shut down "suspect" literary website, block access to another

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the decision of the Shanghai Information Bureau to shut down a literary forum run by poet Lu Yang. This came after the Chinese government blocked access to Israeli literary website for its 20,000 Chinese users at the start of July.

Lu Yang’s forum, Zhongguo Dangdai Shige Luntan (Forum of contemporary Chinese poetry) was removed from its host server Lequyuan (The pleasure garden) at the request of the Information Bureau on 11 July. Two other forums run by Lu Yang have also been closed.

Radio Free Asia (RFA) questioned an employee of the server, Lequyuan, who confirmed the fact that the order came from the authorities and explained the mechanism for censoring websites in China, with surprising candour. This is an extract from the interview:

RFA: "Does the information Bureau often ask you to shut down forums?"

Employee: "All those which break the law have to be closed".

RFA: "Which law?"

Employee: "All articles relating to politics, the Falungong movement or those critical of the party, that are longer than two pages, are deleted. In general, that’s how it happens. If the news posted is more frightening, we then close the forum."

A Chinese independent writer, Zhan Dagong, gave RFA his analysis of the way in which decisions are made: "Literary content is suspect in the eyes of the Party. Poets are often imprisoned because they have a rich method of expression and they can analyse Chinese society in veiled and ambiguous terms. The Internet censors do not understand the hidden meaning and prefer to take the safe option of shutting down the site."

The Israeli website has seen hits fall since the Chinese government blocked access to the site to its citizens. It allowed users to post essays or extracts from books. Most of the content was written by Chinese people. "The authorities in Beijing are currently in the process of stifling freedom of expression," said the editor of Shvoong, Eyal Rivlin.

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