China May Extend Eased Press Rules

ccc.jpgIn what appears to be a damage control move following criticisms over its handling of the Tibet riots, a top Chinese propaganda official reaffirms earlier suggestions that the country will enforce liberalized rules for foreign reporters, originally intended to be valid only up to and during the Olympics, for a longer period of time. He also hints China will be tolerant of critical blogging from Olympic athletes–with caveats. From Reuters via the Guardian:

With just months to go until the opening ceremony, China’s preparations for the Olympic Games risk being clouded by the violent protests that erupted in Tibet last week and the media coverage that followed…But in an interview with Reuters, Cai Mingzhao, vice minister of the State Council Information Office, said he hoped the Olympics would act as an opportunity for international journalists to see the country in a different light.

Since the start of the year, China has allowed foreign reporters to travel and report more freely across most of the country, lifting restrictions that required journalists to seek government permission to report outside their base city.

Under the new rules they need only the agreement of the person they are interviewing. “Since this new regulation is so popular, why should we change it?” he said.

…Cai said China only banned information on the Internet if it undermined the unity of the country or encouraged overthrowing the government. He said the country welcomed blogging — online journals of personal opinion or reflection — and said China now had over 58 million.

“If we had not adopted a positive attitude towards blog writers in China, how could we have achieved such a huge number,” he said.

“If some athletes publish some criticisms on China, so long as they based their criticisms on facts, I think it is up to them. It is their own freedom of expression. And I think China would welcome those criticisms (and maybe) people concerned would try to improve their work.”

As Reuters observes, the new reporting rules didn’t have much effect in allowing foreign journalists to report on the Tibetan riots.