Friday, May 30, 2008

China has banned distribution of the Far Eastern Economic Review, a Rupert Murdoch-owned publication whose current edition contains a scathing criticism of Beijing’s communist government.

Two editors of the influential business publication told The Washington Times that China, which has attempted to show more openness in preparation for hosting the summer Olympics, blocked distribution of the May edition and destroyed newsstand copies.

“The May issue is banned in China,” deputy editor Colum Murphy told The Times in an e-mail in response to a query. “It happens from time to time, but not frequently. As for the reason, you need to speak with the censors in China to confirm that.”

Editor Hugo Restall also said he did not know why China decided to ban this particular issue.

But Michael Ledeen, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, thinks he knows why. Mr. Ledeen, who has a penchant for tweaking repressive regimes, said China’s censors do not want the people to read an article he wrote for the Review headlined, “Beijing Embraces Classical Fascism.”

“It’s a blatant act of censorship,” Mr. Ledeen said in an interview. “It certainly shows the article was right. I take it as a great review of my article.”

The Chinese Embassy press office in Washington did not return several phone calls.

Mr. Ledeen wrote that Chinese leaders are “keeping a firm grip on political power while permitting relatively free areas of economic enterprise. Their political methods are quite like those used by the European fascists 80 years ago.”

He added, “The Chinese, like the European fascists, are intensely xenophobic, and obviously worry that their people may turn against them if they learn too much about the rest of the world. They consequently work very hard to dominate the flow of information. Just ask Google, forced to cooperate with the censors in order to work in China.”

The Far Eastern Economic Review is one of a stable of publications owned by Dow Jones, which publishes the flagship Wall Street Journal and Barrons.

“We regret China’s decision to ban the May issue of the Far Eastern Economic Review and see no justification for it,” said Emily J. Edmonds, a Dow Jones spokeswoman.

She said the review has extended subscriptions by one month for subscribers in China.

Mr. Murdoch’s News Corporation also owns Fox News Channel and the New York Post, and Mr. Murdoch has forged close ties with Chinese government and business leaders as he attempts to spread his media empire to a country of over a billion people with a burgeoning capitalist market.

The New York Times, which ran a critical two-part series on Mr. Murdoch last June as he was in the process of buying Dow Jones, stated in one article that he “cooperates closely with China´s censors and state broadcasters, several people who worked for him in China say. He cultivates political ties that he hopes will insulate his business ventures from regulatory interference, these people say.”

Mr. Murdoch’s wife, Wendi, is a mainland Chinese who worked in Hong Kong as a TV broadcaster. The New York Times said she has helped her husband make inroads into the Chinese market.

In response to the investigation by the New York Times, News Corporation issued a statement that said, “News Corp. has consistently cooperated with the New York Times in its coverage of the company. However, the agenda for this unprecedented series is so blatantly designed to further the Times´s commercial self interests - by undermining a direct competitor poised to become an even more formidable competitor - that it would be reckless of us to participate in their malicious assault. Ironically, the Times, by using its news pages to advance its own corporate business agenda, is doing the precise thing they accuse us of doing without any evidence.”

A month after the series ran, Mr. Murdoch reached a deal to buy Dow Jones for $5 billion.

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