think george w hitler and the american police state is bad? go try china!!!

China tightens grip on media by closing paper

Mark Magnier Los Angeles Times Feb. 16, 2006 12:00 AM

BEIJING - Just before Chinese New Year, Beijing shuttered Freezing Point, among China's most well-regarded and courageous publications.

Editors believed the move was timed to bury news of the crackdown. If so, it didn't work for long.

In a letter made public Tuesday, 13 former Chinese officials and senior scholars denounced the shutdown, saying, "History demonstrates that only a totalitarian system needs news censorship, out of the delusion that it can keep the public locked in ignorance."

The public battle over censorship of Freezing Point, a China Youth Daily supplement, was just one element of China's effort to control information.

Around the same time it shut Freezing Point, Beijing handed down a three-year sentence to journalist Li Changqing for providing "alarmist information" to an overseas Web site. It released a report card on its own censorship activities in which it boasted of banning 79 newspapers last year.

Early this month, Wu Xianghu, deputy editor at Taizhou Wanbao newspaper, died after being severely beaten by police angered by an expose.

And Google's announcement late last month that it would self-censor searches on its Chinese browser in line with Propaganda Department guidelines makes it the latest high-tech giant to cozy up to Beijing.

Freezing Point ran afoul of authorities for a number of stories, including one that criticized distortions in Chinese textbooks. Several lawyers, journalists and intellectuals called for its reinstatement before the Tuesday letter was released.

Other aspects of China's grip on information draw equal criticism.

The U.S. State Department on Tuesday said it had created the Global Internet Freedom Task Force to urge more openness in China and other countries and to help American companies decide how to respond to information requests that may result in punishment for dissenters.

A congressional subcommittee on global human rights held a hearing Wednesday: "The Internet in China: A Tool for Freedom or Suppression?" Executives from Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and Cisco Systems Inc. testified.

The Internet giants think it's worth trying to navigate the complex political minefield because there is big money at stake. An estimated 110 million to 120 million Chinese are online.

"It is the single most important market and single most important strategy for Internet companies for the next 10 years," said Safa Rashtchy, a Piper Jaffray analyst.

Google and other Internet companies already censor their results in other countries: Links to Nazi-related paraphernalia are generally removed from results in Germany and France. The companies even block links in the United States when someone complains that the pages violate copyrights.

"It is a business, and you have to follow the rule of law in the country in which you're operating," Rashtchy said.

Although China has defied critics who thought each new technology would overwhelm its controls, some see a growing edginess in the tactics.

"I think the government is getting increasingly desperate," said Bill Xia, head of North Carolina-based Dynamic Internet Technology, which provides Chinese with technology to circumvent Internet filters. "They're pushing the domestic media and outside companies to openly collaborate with them. They're summoning all their potential partners."

Companies defend their actions. "Filtering our search results clearly compromises our mission," Andrew McLaughlin, Google's senior policy counsel, wrote in a posting on the corporate blog last month.

"Failing to offer Google search at all to a fifth of the world's population, however, does so far more severely," McLaughlin said.

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