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Censorship and threats after 13 Chinese newspapers publish joint editorial about Hukou

Posted by Author on March 10, 2010

Reporters Without Borders, Mar. 9, 2010-

Reporters Without Borders urges the Propaganda Department to lift the censorship imposed on a joint editorial in 13 Chinese daily newspapers calling for the elimination of the internal passport system known as the “hukou.” The press freedom organisation has learned that journalists working for news media that published the editorial have been threatened with punishment.

“Initiating a debate about the hukou on the eve of a session of the National People’s Congress in Beijing was a very positive move,” Reporters Without Borders said. “But, as usual, the Communist Party’s Propaganda Department reacted with censorship and repression. This insult to common sense is yet another example of the tension between Propaganda Department conservatives and pro-reform media.”

The press freedom organisation added: “We urge Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and National People’s Congress chairman Wu Bangguo to order the lifting of all press censorship, a Chinese disease that prevents useful debates from getting under way.”

Published by 13 newspapers in such places as Guangdong, Henan, Fujian and Chongqing on 1 March, the joint editorial called for the end of the hukou, a system introduced during the Maoist era that prevents many Chinese, especial rural residents, from moving to other parts of the country. “China has long suffered from the Hukou system,” the editorial said. “We think that citizens are born free and should have the right to freedom of movement. We urge delegates to do everything possible to propose a hukou reform timetable.”

The editorial was removed from websites within hours of its appearance. The special pages dedicated to hukou reform which the Economic Observer, one of the newspapers responsible for the editorial, had created on its website (www.eeo.com.cn) were quickly suppressed. Even the very official People’s Daily was forced to take the editorial down shortly after posting it. The foreign press was meanwhile hailing the courageous initiative.

Censorship continues to be a “Chinese disease” because of the Propaganda Department and local authorities. Editors often receive written or oral directives forbidding them to cover a national or international story. Sometimes the order instructs them to limit themselves to using the official version of the events. Here are some recent examples…… (Reporters Without Borders)

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