02/15/2006, 00.00
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Mao biographer against Beijing censorship

The secretary of Mao and the former chief of the Propaganda Department are among 13 ex Communist officials who have urged the government to self-criticism and called upon it to reopen the Bingdian Weekly, shut down last month. They write: ""History proves that only an autocratic system needs a clamp on the press and wants to blind the masses forever."

Beijing (AsiaNews/SCMP) – A group of 13 former senior officials of the Communist Party have "expressed their support" through an open letter for the Bingdian Weekly, a newspaper linked to the government China Youth Daily. They have asked that the weekly, which was shut down last month for publishing "unapproved" articles, be reopened. This was confirmed by the weekly's director, Li Datong, yesterday.

Among signatories are: Li Rui, former secretary and biographer of President Mao Zedong; Zhu Houze, former director of the propaganda department and Li Pu, former chief of the Xinhua government agency. The "veterans" sent their letter to the Communist Party leadership, demanding written self-criticism from the Central Propaganda Department, which decided to close the paper, and a new law "which guarantees freedom of the press and of expression".

They wrote: "History proves that only an autocratic system needs a clamp on the press and wants to blind the masses forever."

The signatories of the appeal, who nearly all held positions in the period of the reformist secretaries Zhao Ziyang and Hu Yaobang, added that "depriving citizens of freedom of expression means sowing the seeds of disaster for political and social transition". "We are all senior revolutionary people inspired by freedom, though we are getting to old age", concludes the letter.

Li Rui, interviewed by telephone, added: "The case of Bingdian is not the first is not the first, and won't be the last case to prove the absence of freedom of press and of speech throughout the country."

The Chinese authorities ordered the closure of the weekly, known for the anti-conformism of its articles and criticism of official policies, on 24 January, probably because of an article published two weeks previously which took to task the official textbook interpretation of the Boxer Revolt.

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