China Escalates Crack-Down on Media Freedoms

Article excerpt

November marked significant setbacks for journalists and Internet freedoms in mainland China and Hong Kong.

First, Willy Wo-Lap Lam, arguably the most prominent China-watcher in Hong Kong, resigned Nov. 7 as a columnist and editor at The South China Morning Post because, he said, the paper's Hong Kong owner would no longer tolerate his coverage of politics in Beijing. Lam told The New York Times that The Post, the leading English-language newspaper in Hong Kong, wanted to "depoliticize" its coverage of China.

Lamas resignation has fanned fears of a gradual smothering of free expression in this former British colony.

On the same day Lam resigned, China clamped restrictions on Web sites offering news reports and requiring chat rooms to use only officially approved topics. The new rules mandate general portal sites to use news from state-- controlled media, seek special permission to offer news from foreign media and to meet strict conditions when generating their own news.

The rules said that failure to follow the new, tighter regulations could result in warnings, temporary suspension or permanent shutdown, and that only state media would be allowed to set up news sites and even then only with government approval. …