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Reflections on China's Proposal to Strictly Control News Reports
Prominent dissident Liu Xiaobo discusses the CCP's draft law to restrict news reporting
Xin Fei, The Epoch Times
8/17/2006

The Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party National People's Congress is considering passing the draft "Proposal for Law on Responding to Emergency Events," which forbids news reports on unexpected events without authorization and issues a penalty of 10,000 to 50,000 yuan (US $ 1,250 to 6,250) for violation of the law. Officials confirmed that this draft also applies to foreign and Hong Kong media.

Mr. Liu Xiaobo, a famous literary critic and dissident in Beijing and president of the Independent Chinese Pen Center, pointed out in an interview with The Epoch Times that this kind of suppression is a huge regression in Chinese media and is an typical example of using malicious law to rule a nation.

Liu said, "Only in a society under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) can the official media survive without bankrupting itself by lying and speaking nonsense everyday."

The following is the content of the interview:

Trilogy of the CCP's Suppression of Media

ET: Why do you think the CCP has released "Proposal for Law on Responding to Emergency Events" at this time? What is the trend of administrating and suppressing the media by the CCP?"

Liu Xiaobo: Actually it has been planning the draft for quite a while. From this we can see that the CCP's shifting of political power and system reforms are without substance.

In 2003, when Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabo assumed the reins of government, the law of custody and repatriation was abolished. Three years later, however, they established a different malicious law.

Relying on the anti-SARS campaign, abolishing custody and repatriation, Hu and Wen gained a good reputation inside and outside of China, and their policy was called "The Hu-Wen New Policy." After winning public support and consensus, they immediately changed back to the extremely leftist politics, especially in the field of ideology. Since 2004, they began to severely control and suppress the media in a series of steps.

At the beginning, they chose to suppress individual cases. For example, the South China Morning Post, and any paper that is a little bit open, such as the Beijing News and "Freezing Point" magazine from the China Youth Daily, etc all became targets for suppression. Suppression on individual cases never stopped.

During the second step, the China Propaganda Department Theoretical Bureau and Bureau of Press and Publication established a series of policies. For example, reporters submitting articles had to list their real names, and the same applied to Internet administration systems. Jiangsu Province is one of the worst in making provincial-level regulations. It stipulates that any reports with a criticizing or exposing tone can be published only if the reporter meets with the supervisor to get their signature of permission.

Strict media control is continuously increasing. The suppression of individual cases morphed into strict control policies, by today it has developed into "Proposal for Law on Responding to Emergency Events."

The biggest characteristic of the CCP is to strengthen everyday the idea that the country should be ruled according to the law. In reality, the law is a tool of the dictatorship for maintaining its power.

The Motivation Behind the Draft

ET: A government official said the reason for them to work out this draft was to improve the government's ability to guarantee public security and handle emergency events in order to prevent and reduce damage caused emergency events. He claims the draft will also guarantee the safety and property of the public and maintain national security and social stability, etc. What do you think of this?

Liu: That is what they tell the public, but their real intention is to strictly control the media and make the government the only source for breaking news.

The Chinese communist regime is a kind of dictatorial black box operation. Even in the Western democratic states, the public can only trust news from media with a system and standard, not whatever the government releases.

This legislation gives the state power command the mass media, as the government is the only unit with authority to release news on any event. If a media wants to report something, it has to receive permission from the local government. The government would also have the authority to identify the resource and evaluate the validity of the news. It would have absolute power over the media whenever there is any breaking news.

Chinese Media Becomes More Independent Every Day

ET: Does the legislation of the draft show that the Chinese media is becoming more and more independent?

Liu: The increasing independence started awhile ago. Since the mid-90's, South China Morning Post allowed their reporters write news out of conscience and in a professional manner. Since the media also needs to make a profit, there is a tendency for media to become marketable, independent and nongovernmental.

No matter how many cases the government has suppressed to in its attempt prevent the tendency for media to become more independent, the media does not give up. Media like "freezing point" are resisting as much as they can.

ET: Why did the government officially emphasize that the draft also applies to overseas media?

Liu: Without overseas media, the government could censor all breaking news by controlling its own media. The overseas media make it too hard for the government to block breaking news.

During the SARS crisis in 2003, Mr. Jiang Yanyong's letter to China Central Television (CCTV), Phoenix Television and the Health Department was ignored. Finally, Time Magazine published it, and the whole situation of fighting SARS was turned around.

The Chinese government learned a lesson from that incidence. It now thinks blocking the domestic media is not enough, and the legislation will also block overseas media. By blocking both sides, it would greatly reduce information about events the government cannot control.

Focal Points on Group Events

ET: The Government officially publicized examples of "emergency events," what do you think this legislation is directed against?

Liu: Events such as SARS, bird flu and other public health events as well as incidences like pollution of the Songhua River, coal mine accidents and other accidents and natural disasters. I think focus of the legislation is to control emergency public events, especially large-scale group events that occur.

In recent years, there have been many group resistance and conflicts between the public and local governments, some of which have been very intense. Reporting on these events has always been a forbidden zone, and the official Chinese media does dare not to report it. Such news is normally reported online and by overseas media. Therefore, the government wants this legislation to also apply for overseas media.

Media has had the most sensitive reactions to the draft, as it reports the needed information on breaking news to the public at the first opportunity, and it provides help on maintaining social stability and handling with emergency events for the government.

In addition, the media is especially important for monitoring public opinion of the government whenever a large-scale emergency event occurs. Only through the media, can the public see how the government has been doing. If those reports are blocked, the government will have news monopoly and no pressure, and the public will receive incomplete or false information on the breaking events and how the government handles those.

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