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China: Ban on newspaper seen as part of growing censorship of socio-economic news

Reporters Without Borders has condemned a ban on the online publication China Development Brief and warned diplomats and investors in China of a growing censorship of socio-economic news, preventing any reliable assessment of the real state of the country.

The Beijing Statistics Bureau and the Public Security Bureau on 4 July ordered the site’s founder Nick Young to halt publication. The authorities did not order the site’s closure as such, since the server is British, but warned Young that any further publication would be "illegal".

"We tend to believe that official censorship only affects ’sensitive’ political issues and only targets political activists", the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

"The closure of websites like China Development Brief shows that the spectre of Chinese censorship is much broader and affects news about Chinese society which is not in the interests of the communist party. It should also warn companies working in China about the risks of investing in a country where all social and economic figures are massaged by the government.

"How can one invest calmly in this country when there are no independent figures available on, for example, social development or public health policy?" Reporters Without Borders asked.

Beijing-based China Development Brief (http://www.chinadevelopmentbrief.com/) exists in both English and Chinese versions. Since it was founded in 1995, it has become a major source of information on the development of China’s civil society. Its twice-monthly newsletter counts the World Bank, UN agencies and many NGOs among its subscribers.

The website recently published articles and analyses on sensitive subjects such as the Aids epidemic and rioting in protest against the single child policy. The editorial line of the Chinese version, which was launched in 1999, was however cautious about sensitive issues in China and was not in any way opposed to the government.

The journal’s founder and editor voiced surprise at the decision. "I have always taken a positive angle on the situation in China. I hope that these measures are the work of zealous state security agents and that more important figures in the communist party will realise that actions of this kind are not in China’s interests", he told Agence France Presse.

The Statistics Bureau told Nick Young that he had broken the law on statistics by carrying out unauthorised investigations.

"None of the China Development Brief reports amounted to real investigations or polls, but the authorities said that this law applies to any kind of investigation, including going to speak to people," Young added. The Public Security Bureau declined to comment on the case to AFP.

In February 2007, Reporters Without Borders condemned the filtering of the website of the International Crisis Observatory (www.communication-sensible.com), after it published an article headlined "Shanghai, my love" which informed companies about the risks of commercial relations with China. The organisation commented that already "the filtering of this site shows that censorship of the Chinese Net goes well beyond ’subversive’ political content".

Date posted: July 12, 2007 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 11