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Century China website and a magazine's chat forum shut down in new wave of censorship

(July 26, 2006)Reporters Without Borders today called for the immediate reopening of Century China (Shiji Zhongguo - http://www.cc.cn.org), one of the most influential websites for Chinese intellectuals, and the chat forum of the magazine Life Week (Sanlian Shenghuo Zhoukan - http://www.lifeweek.com.cn/), which carried foreign media reports. Century China stopped posting articles by its contributors at the behest of the authorities yesterday, while the Life Week forum was suddenly closed down without explanation.

"In a country where self-censorship reigns, these sites allowed Internet users to express themselves freely on sensitive subjects and to access news they would never find in the traditional media," Reporters Without Borders said. "At a time when the Chinese Internet seems to be undergoing a new wave of censorship, we remind the authorities that their constitution is supposed to guarantee free expression."

Visitors to the Century China website yesterday found a message by the site's administrators saying: "After receiving a note from the competent authorities, the Century China website (www.cc.cn.org) and its chat forum (www.ccforum.org.cn) will be close from today." The order was issued on 24 July by the Beijing Communications Administration. In the short period before the closure took effect, hundreds of visitors had time to express their anger or sadness on the site's forum.

Founded in July 2000 by the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Beijing Zhongqing Future Community Culture Development Research Institute, the Century China website declared its desire to be "free, independent, democratic, tolerant and rational." Many intellectuals and dissidents - including Liu Xiaobo, the winner of the Reporters Without Borders - Fondation de France prize in 2004 in the press freedom activist category - posted articles on the site about the latest developments in areas ranging from sport to politics. The discussions were very lively, making it a place for real democratic debate.

Life Week is Beijing-based cultural magazine. A regular visitor to its forum told Radio Free Asia in an interview that it broached sensitive political issues such as corruption in a very open manner. Visitors to the forum also used to post news reports from foreign news media such as the Chinese-language service of the German public radio station Deutsche Welle. It is highly likely that its closure was also carried out on orders from the authorities.

These latest cases of censorship come less than a month after the Council of States's information office and the ministry of industry and information expressed their intention on 29 June of reinforcing their control over blogs, search engines and chat forums. (boxun.com)

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