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Authorities close popular print and electronic newsletter, threaten its editor with deportation

(IPI/IFEX) - The following is a 12 July 2007 IPI letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao:

His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People's Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032
P.R. China

Vienna, 12 July 2007

Your Excellency,

The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 110 countries, is deeply concerned at restrictions imposed on civil liberties and free expression in China after authorities closed a popular newsletter on Chinese development and human rights issues and threatened to deport its editor.

According to Nicholas Young, the founding editor of the newsletter, the editors of the print and electronic editions of the "China Development Brief" have been told by government officials to stop publishing. About 5,000 printed copies of the newsletter are distributed bimonthly in Chinese as well as monthly versions in English.

On 4 July, a dozen officials from the Beijing Municipality Public Security Bureau, the Beijing Municipality Statistical Bureau and the Beijing Municipality Cultural Marketing General Legal Implementation Team visited the newsletter's office in Beijing. The officials interviewed staff for about three hours before ordering the newsletter to stop publishing.

Police responsible for supervising foreigners in China have since questioned Young, who was accused of "conducting unauthorised surveys". The 1983 Statistics Law requires advance permission from the state for any survey not conducted by the government and authorised agencies. Beijing authorities have reportedly also threatened to deport Young and ban him from visiting China for five years.

Founded in 1995, the non-profit publication has grown into a leading source of information on social development and the growth of civil society in China, and publishes articles on topics ranging from AIDS to poverty to environmental issues. It is also read widely by international non-governmental organizations working in China. Subscribers and funders include the Asia Development Bank, the UN's Development Programme, the British Council, Save the Children Fund and several dozen foreign universities and media organisations.

Young is unaware of what has prompted the government to act now. However, he suspects the newsletter's closure could be part of a broader political clampdown in advance of China's Communist Party Congress, due in the fall. This high-level meeting is held every five years and is a forum for key leadership changes in the government and policy initiatives.

IPI believes that, particularly during politically sensitive times, it is crucial that the fundamental rights to free expression and access to information are respected. We therefore urge Your Excellency to make sure that the "China Development Brief" is allowed to publish and that no restrictions are imposed on the free flow of information.

We also call on you to ensure that Young is allowed to remain in the country as a sign that the Chinese government respects the right of individuals to express themselves freely on topics of public interest.

We thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

Johann P. Fritz

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