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Mainland website forced to shut down

This article was originally published on ifj.org on 20 October 2014.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) opposes the decision by the Chinese authorities to temporarily shut down a Xian-focused website without explanation.

On October 19, the Tencent Xian website was ordered to shut down for seven days. The local Internet Information Service Office gave no reason for the decision, but many Mainland media outlets suggested the website may have allowed "malignant or harmful" messages. Such content would breach the Provisions for the Administration of Internet News Information Services. However, none of the media articles reported the details of any particular content, or said which provisions had been breached.

The IFJ Asia-Pacific Office said: "As a member of the UN Human Rights Council, China has a responsibility to uphold the Council's 2012 resolution stating that governments should 'promote and facilitate access to the internet and international cooperation aimed at the development of media and information and communications facilities in all countries'."

This UN resolution is said to be the first to put human rights online on a par with human rights offline.

The IFJ Asia-Pacific office said: "We understand each country has autonomy to make domestic law, but laws should be enacted with due process, their content must be precise and punishments should not be disproportionate. The Provisions for the Administration of Internet News Information Services are vague and can easily be abused by officials."

We have learned that China is considering enacting a new law to govern the internet which will heavily restrain freedom of speech online.

We urge China's President Xi Jinping, who is also the Head of the Central Internet Security and Informatization Leading Group, to respect the people's rights. These are enshrined in the Chinese Constitution, which makes no distinction between online and offline rights.

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