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China Criticized Over New Media Rules - 2001-08-11

China is coming under international criticism for tough new media rules that make it easier for the government to shut down publications whose reporting it considers negative or damaging.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has denounced a series of restrictions on reporting and says it is dismayed by a recent government announcement that media outlets which violate the directives can be shut down.

The Chinese state press and publications administration this week published a list of content that will not be tolerated, including reporting that goes against the policies of the Communist Party Other items on the list include reports that spread rumors, interfere in the work of the party and the state, or violate party rules on propaganda.

The government says it already has plans to shut down some publications it describes as "low quality". Since January, the government has been tightening its controls of local media outlets that have become increasingly bold and market-oriented.

Last month, an editor at a southeastern Chinese daily was reportedly fired for publishing a story on the illegal harvesting of body parts from an executed criminal. And in June, an editor at a popular newspaper in central China was dismissed, and another publicly criticized after the paper published two reports on corruption.

Observers believe the media crackdown is linked to preparations for next year's leadership succession, when several top communist officials, including President Jiang Zemin, are expected to retire.

The belief is that officials jockeying for new positions are worried the media could be used as a tool of attack by rivals.