Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Freedom Of Expression Next On China's Hit List

China has shut down the microblogging accounts of outspoken former property tycoon Ren Zhiqiang after he criticized President Xi Jinping.

The Cyberspace Administration of China accused Ren (who has more than 30 million online followers) of publishing "illegal messages that had a bad impact".  In reality, Ren had merely written that state media were funded by taxpayers and should serve them, not the Communist Party.

China has long been criticized for its strict internet regulations, including blocking major sites and censoring posts.  In the past, Chinese state media had referred to his blog as having "anti-Communist Party" thoughts.  Almost 40 journalists are currently in prison in China for work posted online, the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders says.

China has also unveiled new rules banning foreign media companies  from distributing content online without prior approval by Beijing officials.  On its surface, this rule would prohibit any sites such as CNN, BBC, MSNBC or FOX from posting content on its news sites without getting prior permission from the Chinese state.  Access to the BBC's english-language site has already been blocked on several occasions-- as recently as October of last year.

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