August 10, 2000
His Excellency Jiang Zemin
President, People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
VIA FACSIMILE: 86-10-6512-5810
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) strongly condemns the recent banning of the New Culture Forum's Web site (http://www.xinwenming.net), which featured essays and articles advocating a fresh approach to dealing with China's social and political problems. CPJ fears that the site's former staff may now face political persecution by Chinese authorities.
On August 3, the Ministry of State Security ordered the site's host, the Beijing-based Million Internet Company, to shut down New Culture Forum due to its excessively "sharp and anti-government content," the company's general manager, Li Tao, told The Associated Press.
The articles posted on the site were written by veteran dissidents from Shandong Province, but were not directly critical of the Chinese government, according to CPJ sources. Rather, the site promoted the idea of a "new culture" (xin wenming) and featured essays developing the theme that the beginning of a new century should be a time for both citizens and public officials to find new strategies for dealing with social problems.
One of the most prolific contributors to the site was author and lawyer Mu Chuanheng, a well-known political dissident from the city of Qingdao. Mu has been barred from practicing law since 1985 due to his controversial books, all of which have been banned by the authorities, according to CPJ sources. We are concerned for Mu's safety in light of news reports that police are now searching for New Culture Forum's staff.
CPJ also deplores the harassment of employees at the Million Internet Company, particularly general manager Li Tao. Police interrogated Li on four separate occasions between August 4th and 7th, according to the New York-based organization Human Rights in China (HRIC), and ordered him to identify the staff of the New Culture Forum site.
Li told reporters that police had asked him to monitor more closely the sites his company hosts, and to report any suspicious content to the authorities.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of press freedom around the world, CPJ respectfully urges Your Excellency to abandon the Chinese government's repressive Internet policies. In just over a year, seven people have been imprisoned for exchanging news and information online. Authorities have also stepped up efforts to police and regulate Internet content. According to an August 4 report by the state news agency Xinhua, a special Internet police force was established in Anhui Province several weeks ago; it is reportedly intended as a model for similar forces across China.
CPJ believes that frank, public discussion of social and political issues contributes greatly to a country's stability, and is by no means evidence of "subversion" -- an accusation often leveled against journalists and political dissidents.
In addition, CPJ respectfully reminds Your Excellency that China has signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, under which your government is obliged to ensure that citizens are free to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, without interference.
CPJ requests that the New Culture Forum's Web site be allowed to resume publishing online, with no restrictions on its content. We also ask Your Excellency to guarantee that Mu Chuangheng and his colleagues will not be persecuted for their contributions to the site.
We thank you for your attention to this matter, and await your response.
Ann K. Cooper