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    Reporters Without Borders said in it’s 2005 special report titled “Xinhua: the world’s biggest propaganda agency”, that “Xinhua remains the voice of the sole party”, “particularly during the SARS epidemic, Xinhua has for last few months been putting out news reports embarrassing to the government, but they are designed to fool the international community, since they are not published in Chinese.”
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China: Tainted Milk, Tainted Government

Posted by Author on November 12, 2010

Wall Street Journal, N0v.11, 2010 –

When Chinese milk tainted with the industrial chemical melamine killed at least six infants and made 300,000 others sick in 2008, authorities moved to contain the damage, arresting dozens of dairy producers and local officials and executing two of them. But they also muzzled activists who publicized the problem and sought justice for the victims’ families.

On Wednesday, the most prominent of these troublemakers, Zhao Lianhai, was sentenced to 2½ years in prison for “inciting social disorder.” Mr. Zhao, whose son fell ill from drinking baby formula laced with melamine, created a web site to help other families with sick children share information about suing the government. Police harassed him for months and then took him into custody in November 2009, where for three months he was denied access to lawyers. Even when he was finally allowed counsel and a trial, Mr. Zhao and his legal team were not allowed to call witnesses in his defense.
Meanwhile, new cases of melamine contamination continue to arise. A food-safety law passed last year imposed sweeping new regulations and strengthened centralized control of food production at every step of the process. But widespread corruption within local-government watchdogs means that many producers continue to find ways around the rules.

The real issue is the Communist Party’s aversion to transparency. Beijing officially encourages people to expose corruption and then punishes any organized effort to do so. Like those who agitated for tougher enforcement of building standards after a devastating earthquake in 2008, Mr. Zhao and other vocal parents of sickened children were punished for carrying out their duty as citizens.

There are some reasons to be hopeful. Although domestic journalists weren’t permitted to cover the melamine story until after the Beijing Olympics ended, local papers appear freer of late to report on such scandals as they happen. The public has become more aware of the problems as a result.

But so long as their government prefers to suppress discussion of issues it deems “sensitive” once they are exposed, concerned Chinese consumers will be unable to press for the reforms needed to prevent future incidents. Real social disorder will be the result if others don’t take up the fight that Mr. Zhao started.

Wall Street Journal

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