China is defending its recent decision to restrict the activities of foreign media in the country. Critics have blasted the move as yet another means to clamp down on the flow of information and some have accused China of acting to monopolize control of the country's growing financial news market.
The new rules issued by the government's Xinhua news agency ban foreign news agencies from publishing information that - in the government's view - threatens national security and promotes the spread of cults and superstition. It gives Xinhua full authority to delete content the communist government considers taboo.
Liu Binjie, vice minister of the General Administration of Press and Publications, the government entity that controls print media in China, spoke to reporters in Beijing Thursday. He denied allegations by international media analysts that Xinhua is unfairly imposing the controls for a commercial advantage.
"In implementing these rules, the government will certainly attach importance to having a competitive environment and prevent excessive monopoly," he said
Premier Wen Jiabao sought to allay international concerns triggered by the restrictions. In London Thursday, he told British business leaders his government will continue its policy of opening up. He vowed to protect the rights of investors and the right of journalists to report news in China.
The Chinese leader also said his government expects the foreign media to comply with China's laws.
China's domestic media are subject to censorship, especially on matters relating to the Communist Party leadership, corruption and social unrest. The government has long restricted access to foreign publications and news broadcasts.
It is not clear how the new regulations will be implemented or exactly which foreign news organizations must obey them.
VOA has two correspondents based in Beijing. The Chinese government, however, tries to jam VOA radio broadcasts into the country and blocks access to the VOA Internet site.
International press freedom advocates and governments have condemned the new restrictions. A U.S. State department official has expressed concern, noting that freedom of the press is a fundamental right that is recognized in China's constitution. He said Washington would be opposed to any steps that would restrict it.