New Book Censorship Regulations Take Effect in China

March 13, 2005

New Regulations on the Administration of Book Quality became effective on March 1, according to a March 2 report carried on the People's Daily Web site. Administered by the General Administration of Press and Publications ("GAPP"), the new Regulations were enacted on December 24, 2004 and supersede a similar regulation from 1997. According to the People’s Daily report, one significant change from the 1997 rules is that the new Regulations specify that publishers not only must not reprint books that do not conform to government-mandated quality requirements, but authorities must also confiscate copies already sold. Like the 1997 regulations, however, the Regulations address issues of "quality" both with respect to a book's appearance and with respect to its contents.

See below for additional information and analysis.



The Regulations divide books into two categories: those that meet quality standards and those that do not. One of the factors in determining whether a book meets quality standards is whether or not its contents violate Article 26 of China's Regulations on the Administration of Publishing. That article includes vague prohibitions on publishing books with content that:

  • oppose the basic principles confirmed in the Constitution;
  • harm the honor or the interests of China;
  • propagate evil cults or superstitions; or
  • disturb social order, disrupting social stability.

Provisions such as these have been used to imprison dozens of writers, journalists, and people attempting to practice religions not officially recognized by China's government, and generally encourage self-censorship among Chinese citizens.

Under the regulations, if the GAPP deems a book to include any of the contents listed above, it may force the publisher to confiscate all of the books and revise any future editions to ensure the book's contents conform to the GAPP's standards for what is acceptable. The provisions relating to acceptable content were revised from the 1997 regulations (enacted prior to the Publishing Regulations), which contained an even more vague proscription against contents that "have no value, have serious problems, or that violate relevant national policies on prohibited publishing with respect to such things as ideology, culture, science, or art."

In addition to allowing censors to require that offending books be confiscated, the Regulations empower the GAPP to strip Chinese citizens of their right to publish. People in China may only publish with government authorization, and under the Regulations, anyone directly responsible for producing three non-qualifying books in a single year, or any non-qualifying books for two consecutive years, will have their government authorization revoked by their local press and publication office, and may not engage in publishing for three years.