A Loophole of Hope in China

Zhang Hong is deputy editor in chief of Beijing’s Economic Observer Online. He writes in the Guardian:

The Chinese news media is tightly controlled. To make things worse, decisions by the censors are often arbitrary. Propaganda officials seldom explain to editors and publishers why one story must be deleted and why some reports are forbidden. There’s no clear rule in this area, and all decisions are based on the officials’ personal judgment. Chinese courts normally won’t accept cases relating to the decisions by the propaganda officials, even if these decisions might destroy a publication and leave hundreds of people jobless. It is an open secret that media censorship is still one of the very few areas that are free from legal supervision.

So it was brave of Cui Fang, a reporter working for China Business Post, to file a lawsuit on Wednesday against the Bureau of Press and Publications in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, accusing the Bureau of violating laws when it ordered a three-month suspension of the paper.

In July, China Business Post published a story based on Cui Fang’s investigation, reporting that a subsidiary of the Agricultural Bank of China in Hunan province breached regulations in writing off 4.61bn yuan (£387m) bad debt, an allegation the bank strongly denied. Two months later, China Business Post was suspended from publication for three months by a “superior administration” – believed to be the Bureau of Press and Publications.

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