Beijing Court Sentences Man to Three Years Imprisonment for Publishing a Magazine Without Government Permission

September 22, 2006

The Number 1 Intermediate Court in Beijing has sentenced the head of the Beijing representative office of Hong Kong's Credit China International Media Group Limited to three years imprisonment for publishing a magazine without government permission, Xinhua reported on August 11. Xinhua, citing the Legal Evening News, said that the court convicted a "Mr. Xia" of illegally operating a business for publishing nearly 10,000 copies of the magazine "Credit China" using fraudulent publishing numbers.

The Xinhua report did not mention the convicted man's full name, but the magazine's Web site is registered to Xia Huasuo, and a person by that name is listed as the author of an essay introducing the magazine. In April 2005, the Beijing Times reported that the Beijing procuratorate had indicted two men for publishing the writings of Chinese political leaders in Credit China and China Wealth. The report labeled both magazines as "illegal publications," said a "Mr. Xia" was responsible for their publication, claimed the publications had "created a negative influence," and stated that "Mr. Xia's" case was currently under investigation. A list of banned "illegal periodicals" that Xinhua published in November 2004 included China Wealth, but not Credit China.

Article 225 of China's Criminal Law makes it a crime for anyone to commit "illegal acts in business operation and thus disrupt market order." In 1998, China's Supreme People's Court issued the Explanation Regarding Certain Questions About the Specific Laws to be Used in Adjudicating Criminal Cases of Illegal Publications, which allows courts to use Article 225 to imprison anyone who "publishes, prints, copies or distributes illegal publications." Other examples where Chinese authorities have used these provisions to detain and imprison publishers for publishing without government authorization include:

  • In January 2004, authorities in Anhui province sentenced three people to prison terms of between one and three years, respectively, for publishing collections of love poems.
  • In March 2005, a court in Shandong province sentenced two men to prison terms of three and two years, respectively, for publishing collections of materials they downloaded off the Internet.
  • On July 7, 2005 a court in Beijing tried Cai Zhuohua, a minister to six underground congregations in Beijing, his wife Xiao Yunfei, her brother Xiao Gaowen, and his wife Hu Jinyun for allegedly printing more than 200,000 Bibles and other Christian books. The court has not yet announced a verdict.

Chinese authorities use an extensive system of prior restraints to restrict the right to publish guaranteed in China's Constitution to government-sponsored, domestic publishing houses that have enough money to meet the government's burdensome registered capital requirements and that are willing to obey the Communist Party Central Propaganda Department and the General Administration of Press and Publication. In addition to imprisoning publishers for publishing without a license, over the last year Chinese authorities have banned hundreds of newspapers and magazines, confiscated hundreds of thousands of political publications, launched a campaign to shut down unauthorized foreign periodicals, and used China's vague national security and state secrets laws to imprison writers and journalists.