After just 15 months in office, top press regulator Long Xinmin was abruptly reassigned last week. Nobody’s quite certain why. But the General administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) suffered no shortage of embarrassments during Long’s abbreviated tenure, the last a bungled ban attempt on eight books. It triggered unprecedented outrage over censorship from Netizens, open challenges from several veteran liberals who were targeted, and most recently a lawsuit filed by one them, Zhang Yihe. Thus Western headlines have blared: ‘Censor dismissed following book row.’ Meantime, less scintillating information linking the former Beijing city propaganda official’s transfer to a protracted probe into corruption in the capital, while duly noted in the SCMP and elsewhere, has gotten far less attention. So what was Long’s problem – censorship or corruption? Or both? Or something deeper? We’ve been asking around. Here’s a rundown of what industry insiders in Beijing are hearing so far:
Free speech lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, who is representing Zhang Yihe in her case against GAPP:
The book ban affair really hurt China’s image. It made news internationally and was a major of loss of face. So we at least can make a case that it might have been an indirect factor…
…As to whether [the case] had a direct effect – probably not. But this could be a question of his record on the job. Long Xinmin just arrived at GAPP some months ago. They [the leadership] definitely would have liked for him to serve out the term. But this affair was badly mishandled. It affected the international image. And the reaction in China was very strong. So we can’t rule out the possibility that this was also meant to express the will of the people, and let intellectuals blow off steam. [GAPP deputy director] Wu Shulin also has lost his chance at future promotion – that would seem certain.
…Sure, GAPP didn’t start [the attack on the books]. The Central Publicity Department did. But I have no way of speaking with [deputy propaganda chief] Li Dongsheng. I can only sue GAPP, so that’s what we’ve done. I don’t have enough information to say if it affected Long Xinmin. I can only give an analysis. My overall thinking is that our case is not directly related to his – it’s safer to say that. But I’m still rather satisfied with how we’ve made our case.
A Communist Party newspaper editor:
The direct reason is said to be related to the time he [Long Xinmin] served as a Beijing official. I’ll tell you more later when it’s more convenient.
A Chinese news magazine editor:
Haven’t they been trying to go after [Beijing party secretary] Liu Qi and [former party secretary] Jia Qinlin for awhile? It seems it has to do with the Haidian case. We heard he had a mistress. Who doesn’t? But it’s nothing like [disgraced Beijing vice-mayor] Liu Zhihua [who’s said to have been caught on film en flagrante with a hooker in Hong Kong].
A Chinese publishing industry executive:
The reason being given, I’ve heard, was that his wife took bribes. It wasn’t because of anything he did himself. So for now he’s only been moved, not removed.
A Chinese publisher and ex-magazine editor:
The truth is there are all sorts of stories going around. The new guy is supposedly a Hu [Jintao] man [new GAPP director Liu Bingjie]. Actually, I hear he’s more open-minded.
A publisher and current CPPCC delegate:
Looks like Jiang man is out and a Hu man [Liu Bingjie] is in, huh?
Well, it’s old business. It goes back to his days as Beijing municipality propaganda bureau and the Central Inspection and Discipline Committee investigation into corruption in the city government. I heard about this a couple weeks ago. Cai Fuchao
now Beijing municipality propaganda chief – was also called in to talk. It was Long who once promoted Cai. I don’t know if anything will happen to him [Cai], though.
…It might not be just Haidian and the land deals. There’s a lot of stuff on them, including the whole Beijing Youth Daily case.
Anyway, I don’t think it could possibly be because of the book ban. If it was, then Long Xinmin wouldn’t be the one to be punished. It would be Wu Shulin. It doesn’t make much sense that this would happen to the top man just because of that. GAPP was basically just trying to do its their job, carrying out orders. Would it send the right signal to sack him for it?
But Long was definitely a Jiang man. And they [Discipline Inspection] have been trying to go after Beijing leaders for corruption for a long time. So maybe the book ban was an added excuse to make this move.
…I knew Long from back in his Beijing days. He was okay to do business with. So for me it’s a bit of a shame to see him go.