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China: Bar on foreign press printing papers on mainland to remain

Foreign newspapers will not be allowed to print on the mainland, a senior official has said, stressing the issue was "complicated".

Yu Yongzhan, deputy director of the General Administration of Press and Publication (Gapp), told the South China Morning Post that the administration had studied the possibility of allowing foreign newspapers to print on the mainland, but had decided against it at present.

"This is a complicated matter, and can't be decided by our administration alone," he said.

Under current regulations, foreign newspapers must be shipped into the mainland, where they are then subject to customs duties and censoring. Once approved for distribution, the newspapers can be sold at approved locations or delivered to foreign subscribers.

There were foreign media reports last year that Gapp would allow foreign newspapers to print on the mainland on a contract basis, while retaining control of distribution. However, Gapp officials apparently later changed their minds.

Mr Yu also refuted foreign reports that Founder Group unit Easiprint had established a partnership with NewspaperDirect of Canada to print and distribute English-language newspapers to individuals in China on a print-on-demand basis.

Under the arrangement, reported in the Western media, Easiprint was to print individual copies of foreign papers and deliver them to approved customers, which were said to be limited to foreign residents, hotels and embassies.

"This report is false," Mr Yu said. "The Founder Group is a very influential company, and would not do anything to violate the law."

Easiprint general manger Luo Yunfeng said yesterday: "The report is not accurate."

However, a public relations spokesman for NewspaperDirect said in an e-mail yesterday that printing and distribution had already begun in Beijing and would begin next month in Shanghai.

He said there was some confusion over government approvals.

"This is the dilemma," he said. "I understand that approval has been received from one government department, but that another is contradicting this."

Mr Yu said Gapp was considering allowing Hong Kong publishing companies to take a majority share in publishing ventures on the mainland -- ahead of foreign companies -- under the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement [Cepa].

At present, only foreign companies involved in the printing of materials other than books and periodicals may set up wholly-owned ventures on the mainland, while foreign publishing companies involved in printing books and periodicals must operate as joint ventures, with a local partner, and cannot hold a majority stake in the venture.

Hong Kong companies, who account for two-thirds of joint venture publishing companies on the mainland, have been lobbying hard to be able to hold the majority shares in such ventures.

Mr Yu said, however, that Gapp would not rescind a policy implemented last autumn that restricts new magazines, other than science and technology ones that are published on the mainland under copyright co-operation arrangements between the government and foreign publishers.

He said exceptions may be made for sports-related publications in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Foreign periodicals, facing flat markets at home, have been seeking creative ways to enter the mainland market, which has been growing at an annual rate of about 20 per cent in recent years.

The first issue of the Chinese edition of Rolling Stone hit the newsstands on February 6, but Gapp immediately shut it down.

Date posted: August 27, 2006 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 8