01/18/2006, 00.00
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79 newpapers banned, 169 million "illegal" copies seized in 2005

Any items tackling social protests fell within the sphere of prohibited topics. The same measure of condemnation was applied to pornography and publications exposing land seizure.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - China's authorities banned 79 newspapers and seized 169 million publications deemed illegal in a nationwide crackdown last year, Liu Yunshan, head of the Communist Party's Publicity Department and the country's top propaganda official, was quoted as saying at a conference.

Seventeen production lines making pirate compact discs were also shut down and 50 types of computer software games banned. Officials must "severely crack down on illegal publications, purify the cultural market, effectively curb various kinds of piracy and strengthen intellectual property right protection," Mr Liu was quoted as saying. Xinhua didn't name any of the banned publications.

Although pirating discs is rampant and pornography is easily available, China maintains an iron grip on publications and routinely punishes or closes newspapers and websites that discuss sensitive political or social issues. In the heaviest reported sentence for online obscenity, a 20-year-old website operator in eastern China was jailed in 2004 for 15 years for selling downloads of "sexually oriented movies".

In the same part of China, two journalists have been sentenced to up to 10 years in jail for publishing an unauthorised magazine that exposed local land disputes. Zhu Wangxiang and Wu Zheng were convicted by the Liandu district court, Zhejiang province, on Tuesday for publishing the "New China Youth" magazine without having the approval of media authorities, a court official said. "Formal charges against the two men included illegal business operations, fraud and extortion," the official, who declined to be named, said.

Zhu and Wu were also convicted of raising 2.0 million yuan in investment funds for the magazine, which was deemed illegal fund raising since the magazine was not registered, the official said.

A Xinhua news agency report last month said the state took action against the magazine largely because of two articles that focused on land rights, one of the biggest causes of civil unrest in China. The articles were entitled: "Appeal of the Peasants," and: "When Power Replaces Law, What Happens to the Law? Return Our Human Rights."

When local villagers saw these articles, they volunteered to give the magazine 30,000 yuan. "This constituted bribe-taking so they were charged with fraud," the official said.

"These journalists also threatened the local government. They said if the government did not resolve the peasants' legitimate demands, then they would write up the stories. This constituted extortion."

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