Chinese Censors Ban 60 News, Law, Education, and Lifestyle Publications "In Accordance with the Law"

November 23, 2004

Xinhua reports that the General Administration of Press and Publication and the National Anti-Pornography Counter-Illegal Publishing Task Force have banned 60 publications as part of an ongoing "Sweep Away Pornography and Strike Down Illegal Publications" campaign. According to Xinhua, the banned publications fell into the following categories:

1. Foreign publications being illegally published, printed, or distributed in China.
2. Publications illegally using the names of government-authorized publications. Many of these were "extra editions" that were being published by government-authorized publishers without permission.
3. Publications that were publishing internal ("nei bu") information.

Titles of the banned publications include: "Legal News," "China Education Magazine," and "Citizens and Law." The complete list is available here.

Reports in China's official news media emphasize these censorship activities have been conducted "in accordance with the law." These events are an example of a phenomenon the Commission discussed in its 2004 Annual Report: how Chinese authorities are turning rule of law into a weapon to suppress human rights, rather than protect citizens from government abuse of these rights. In this case, the actions taken by the GAPP and the Task Force are entirely consistent with the prior restraints Chinese government authorities use to restrict the right to publish guaranteed in China's Constitution to wealthy, government-sponsored, domestic publishing houses that obey the Communist Party Central Propaganda Department and the GAPP.

In addition to focusing on the "legality" of the censorship, Chinese media reports emphasize that the closing of these publications as a purely regulatory exercise: "These illegal publishing activities threaten China's domestic regular publishing order, and must be banned and prosecuted in accordance with the law." They do not address the larger issue of why individuals in China are not allowed to engage in publishing.