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China 25 March 2002

Weekly paper Nanfang Zhumo censored again

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) protested today against the censorship of the weekly newspaper Nanfang Zhumo and called on the Chinese government to allow the paper to publish freely. "Once again, the Chinese authorities are gagging one of the country’s most independent newspapers," RSF secretary-general Robert Ménard said in a letter to the head of the propaganda department of the ruling Communist Party’s central committee, Din Guangen. He noted that when the annual session of the Chinese parliament ended on 22 March with an official request by Hong Kong representatives for an enquiry into the accounts of Chinese NGOs, the authorities decided to censor an article about the matter. R. Ménard called for the article to be published and for pressure on the paper to cease.

RSF learns that on 20 March Nanfang Zhumo (Southern Weekend) stopped printing its 26 March edition on orders from the propaganda department and was forced to remove a four-page feature on the NGO Project Hope, run by the China Youth Development Foundation, which is controlled by the Communist Youth League. About 300,000 copies of the paper had already been printed. The lead article was replaced by another one about corruption. The Hong Kong press had reported that Project Hope, which works to help illiterate children, had lost huge sums through loans and investments. The official paper China Daily insisted however that the NGO’s managers had made "legal, healthy and effective" investments. The scandal revived criticism of the lack of financial supervision of NGOs with close ties to the government.

Nanfang Zhumo, based in the southern city of Guangzhou, is well-known for its investigations and editorials about matters rarely discussed in the Chinese media. In recent years, the paper has many times been the target of the authorities. Last June, its news editor, Chang Ping, and chief editor, Qian Gang, were removed and given other jobs on the paper after printing an article blaming the corruption of government officials for economic problems in the countryside. Qian Gang had earlier replaced Jiang Yiping, who had been forced out of her job in January 2000 for publishing articles considered "subversive."

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