Beijing tightens controls on foreign media

March 7, 2011 - 0:0

BEIJING (AFP)– Officials in China's capital said Sunday that foreign reporters must seek government permission to conduct interviews in Beijing, taking a hard interpretation of current, more liberal regulations amid Internet calls for Middle East-style popular protests.

Li Honghai, vice director of Beijing's Foreign Affairs Office, said reporters must apply and get government permission to conduct any news gathering within the city center.
Li's announcement at a news conference makes explicit restrictions that police began imposing more than a week ago following online postings of unknown origin for protests at designated spots in Beijing, Shanghai and other Chinese cities every Sunday. In the past week, police have followed foreign reporters in Beijing, and in some cases stopped foreign TV news crews from filming even innocuous subjects because they lacked permission.
On the third such Sunday since the postings first appeared, no apparent demonstrations occurred in Beijing or Shanghai, though like previous weeks the designated sites drew onlookers and heavy security. In Shanghai, as a cold rain fell, police detained at least 17 foreign reporters for showing up at the protest site, People's Square, for not having permission to be there.
The requirement for permission shows how nervous the authoritarian government is about the calls for protests, even though China's economy continues to hum and living standards improve.
Beijing officials used the news conference to denounce the Internet appeals as an attempt to undermine China's stability.