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Beijing Clamps Down on Text Messages

December 27, 2007

By ANITA CHANG

BEIJING: Monday, December 24, 2007 (AP) - A Beijing city regulation
clamping down on people who send text messages that "spread rumors" or
"endanger public security" is a threat to freedom of expression, a
watchdog group said Monday.

China Human Rights Defenders, an international network of activists and
rights monitoring groups, said the recent regulation on text messages
"raises serious concerns over the restriction of freedom of expression
in China."

The group said in a statement that an average of 180 million text
messages are sent every day and that text messaging has become one of
the most important means of receiving information unavailable in the
mainstream media.

The 2008 Olympics, which Beijing is hosting, offer a high-profile
opportunity for protesters to air their grievances against China on
issues like religious freedom, human rights and Tibetan independence.

Beijing police will work with government agencies and telecommunications
companies to investigate and punish those using text messages to "spread
rumors" or "endanger public security," the city government said in a
notice posted on its Web site late last month.

Chinese authorities commonly use vague charges such as those to detain
dissidents or others it views as a threat to the ruling Communist Party.

Although the notice did not detail specific punishments, a story in the
city's Communist Party mouthpiece newspaper, the Beijing Daily, earlier
this year said people who spread rumors or other false information are
subject to detention for up to 10 days and a fine of up to $70.

China has more than 500 million cell phone users and text messaging has
become an increasingly effective way to spread word of meetings or
demonstrations.

This summer, plans to build a chemical plant in the southern coastal
city of Xiamen were suspended after residents sent nearly 1 million text
messages to friends and family, urging the government to abandon the
project because of its alleged health and environmental risks.

Meanwhile, a Tibetan language online discussion forum was shut down this
month for having content that was against Chinese law, according to a
notice on its Web site.

The popular forum, which was hosted at www.Tibet123.com, was shut down
for containing "illegal content," according to a notice on the Web site.

The notice says it "strongly condemns the 'rotten apple in the barrel'
who published harmful information."

The notice then invites people to leave comments. It is not clear if the
notice is from the site moderator or the government.

Media rights group Reporters Without Borders has called the site "the
most dynamic forum in the Tibetan blogosphere" with over 6,200
registered members.

The Paris-based group said the site has been closed since Dec. 6. It was
still inaccessible Monday.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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