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JOURNALIST DIES FROM ASSAULT; MEDIA CRACKDOWN CONTINUES

Journalists at "Taizhou Wanbao", a newspaper in the eastern Chinese city of Taizhou, are calling for criminal charges to be laid against local traffic police officers, following the death of editor Wu Xianghu on 2 February 2006.

Wu, 41, died of liver and kidney failure, months after being hospitalised last October as a result of a physical assault, report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF). On 20 October 2005, dozens of traffic police attacked him for an article published in "Taizhou Wanbao". Wu was beaten, carried from the building and forced into a police van.

"Taizhou Wanbao" had carried a report that complained of high fees levied on electric bicycle licenses, according to CPJ. A senior officer was fired for his role in the assault.

In other parts of China, newspapers and other media outlets also face reprisals for challenging authorities and pushing the boundaries of free expression.

On 24 January, officials ordered the Beijing-based "China Youth Daily" to close the newspaper's influential supplement, "Bing Dian" ("Freezing Point"), accusing it of "viciously attacking the socialist system" and condemning an article criticizing history textbooks used in Chinese classrooms, CPJ reports. "China Youth Daily" is run by the Communist Youth League.

Authorities told the supplement's editor, Li Datong, that an 18 January article entitled ?Modernisation and history textbooks" expressed a "dangerous" view of the foreign occupation of China at the end of the 19th century, notes RSF. The supplement was accused of hurting national sentiment by romanticising the invasion.

Last year, Li Datong also raised hackles when he wrote a letter to "China Youth Daily's" editor-in-chief Li Erliang, criticising a proposal to link reporters' salaries to positive reviews by government officials. The proposal was cancelled after the letter was leaked to the public.

The closing of "Bing Dian" came weeks after the government removed senior editors at the "Beijing News". According to several Chinese intellectuals and journalists interviewed by RSF, Yang Bin, Sun Xeudong and Li Duoyu were fired because of their editorial stances on social issues. Last year, the newspaper broke the story of a violent crackdown on farmers protesting government appropriation of land in the village of Shengyou.

Meanwhile, 32 journalists continue to languish in Chinese jails, making the country the world's leading jailer of journalists, according to CPJ and RSF.

One of the journalists, Shi Tao, was the subject of a CPJ-initiated petition presented to the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C. last week. Embassy officials refused to accept the petition, which called for the journalist's immediate release. It was signed by more than 400 prominent U.S. journalists and press freedom advocates, including "Wall Street Journal" Managing Editor Paul Steiger, CBS News Anchor Bob Schieffer and David Remnick, editor of "The New Yorker."

Shi Tao, an Internet essayist and former editor of the Changsha-based newspaper "Dangdai Shang Bao", is serving a 10-year sentence for "leaking state secrets abroad" in a 2004 e-mail sent to the editor of an overseas Web site, says CPJ. The e-mail described Chinese government instructions on how his newspaper should cover the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

The U.S. Internet company Yahoo helped Chinese authorities identify Shi through his e-mail account, raising concerns among CPJ, RSF and other free expression groups about the extent to which Western corporations are enabling Chinese authorities to carry out repressive actions against Chinese citizens.

In two other recent cases, Microsoft shut down a critical blog at the request of Chinese authorities, and Google agreed to block search responses to terms such as "democracy" and "human rights" from its Chinese search engine.

Visit these links:

- CPJ and RSF on Wu Xianghu's Death:
http://www.cpj.org/news/2006/asia/china06feb06na_2.html
http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=16371
- "Bing Dian" Closed: http://www.cpj.org/news/2006/asia/china25jan06na.html
- Crackdown on "Beijing News": http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=16276
- CPJ Petition to Free Shi Tao: http://www.cpj.org/protests/06ltrs/asia/china06feb06ltr.html
- Xinhua - The World's Biggest Propaganda Machine:
http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=15172
- Human Rights Watch Testimony to U.S. Congress: http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/02/01/china12592.htm
- Google Bows to Great Firewall of China: http://tinyurl.com/aymsa
- BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4672518.stm
- How Google Filtering in China Works: http://www.opennetinitiative.net/blog/?cat=8

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