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Beijing has halted plans to allow foreign newspapers to print in China because of concerns raised by recent “colour revolutions” against authoritarian governments in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, according to a senior media regulator.
Shi Zongyuan, head of the General Administration of Press and Publication, said the role of international media in such popular revolts had prompted the suspension of what had been an easing of China’s curbs on foreign news publications.
“The ‘colour revolutions’ were a reminder not to let saboteurs into the house and that the door must be closed, so we have closed it temporarily,” Mr Shi said in an interview with the FT.
Mr Shi’s remarks underline the increasing concern with which Chinese leaders have viewed the toppling of the government of Georgia in 2003, of Ukraine in 2004 and of Kyrgyzstan earlier this year.
Moscow has alleged that the hand of America’s CIA lay behind some of the reporting of these revolts.
Fears that China’s own political order could also be undermined have fuelled a broad effort by Beijing propaganda officials to tighten controls on cultural and media imports.
Mr Shi’s linkage of foreign newspaper printing in China to national security issues is likely to disappoint international newspaper publishers eager to build their presence in what is potentially huge media market.
Foreign newspapers are currently flown into mainland China from print sites in Hong Kong and elsewhere, and distribution is limited to places such as hotels and airports and to approved subscribers.
The press administration had planned to allow local publications to print foreign newspapers on a contract basis, while retaining restrictions on distribution.
Mr Shi said that any return to the liberalisation policy depended on the conduct of foreign media.