In China, a popular Web forum is shuttered

October 3, 2005 12:00 PM ET

New York, October 3, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the shuttering of the Beijing-based Yannan bulletin board system. Radio Free Asia reported today that the popular Web forum was closed after providing coverage and debate on a turbulent recall campaign in a village in Guangdong province.

Yannan posted a September 30 announcement stating that it would be closed until further notice for "cleanup and rectification." It did not elaborate. Nine days before, the Web site removed postings on the political standoff in the village of Taishi, as well as separate discussions of murders committed by a Ningxia migrant worker, according to international news reports.

The action comes less than a week after government agencies announced new rules restricting Internet news and online content.

"Yannan has provided an important and rare forum for Chinese citizens to exchange information and debate issues that are crucial to the country's future," CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. "Coupled with the announcement of new Internet regulations, China is sending a clear and disturbing message that it intends to crack down on free expression on the Web."

Readership had soared as Yannan provided a forum for public debate on the efforts of Taishi villagers to recall the elected village committee head, Chen Jinsheng, whom they accused of corruption, according to China Information Center, a U.S.-based organization. The case captivated academics, journalists, and legal scholars who saw it as a test of the government's commitment to its experiments in small-scale democracy. The recall efforts pitted villagers against local officials and police, who arrested dozens of protesters, many of whom are elderly, according to news reports.

The administrators of bulletin board, or BBS, forums in China are responsible for their content. In addition, new Internet regulations classify bulletin boards carrying current events as news organizations and make them subject to State Council approval and strict guidelines. New rules also ban any online content that could incite "illegal protests" or gatherings.

Police briefly detained a journalist covering the Taishi standoff for the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post on August 31, the newspaper reported.

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