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CHINA: The Press

Freedom of the press, combined with responsibility, is essential to a democracy.There are constant complaints that American newspapers are business enterprises which filter the news. This was a theme in a splendid C-Span discussion today. Paul Simon send us this item about a more serious problem in China (beware. He is a she): "Beijing link as newspaper revenue scandal spreads. A corruption scandal at one of China's leading newspapers could spread to the Ministry of Propaganda in Beijing. According to sources at the Guangzhou Daily, editor-in-chief He Xiangqin, who is at the centre of an investigation into economic irregularities at the paper, has implicated central government propaganda officials. He told investigators that some of the problems involved propaganda officials in Beijing," a source at the paper said. Ministry officials could not be reached for comment yesterday. The newspaper made no statement. He was detained by investigators from the Chinese Communist Party's Central Disciplinary Inspection Commission in January to help with a corruption investigation at the country's most profitable newspaper. Although her exact whereabouts are unknown, He is believed to be under military guard in Guangzhou. "Ms He is still under detention. We haven't seen her at the office in a very long time," the source said. According to sources familiar with the investigation, the Central Disciplinary Inspection Commission is focusing on the handling of the newspaper's substantial advertising revenues. Besides He, at least two other senior Guangzhou Daily officials have been detained by investigators, including the former head of the newspaper's advertising department, Tao Jian. The head of the paper's construction arm is also being investigated. "Tao Jian was replaced late last year," a newspaper source said. "We haven't seen him since." The scandal began to unravel in December when Tao, who was the newspaper's point of contact for Hong Kong advertisers, was detained at the Hong Kong-Shenzhen border. It is understood Tao led investigator is thes to He, who has implicated propaganda officials in Beijing. With a circulation above 1.6 million, the Guangzhou Daily is the second-largest newspaper in China after the People's Daily. But unlike the People's Daily, the Communist Party's main mouthpiece, the Guangzhou Daily boasts a loyal readership and fat advertising revenues. Last year the Guangzhou Daily Group, which in addition to its flagship paper includes 13 other publications, collected total advertising revenues of 1.3 billion yuan (HK$1.2 billion) - more than any other mainland newspaper group. As of the end of 1999, the Guangzhou Daily Group's fixed assets stood at 3.6 billion yuan. Besides its 14 publications, the group controls seven commercial subsidiaries. These include advertising, real estate and information technology companies".

Ronald Hilton - 3/1/02