China Silences Online Critics

China has shut down two Internet forums that criticized government media controls and condemned the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, a human rights group said.

The Southern Weekend Forum, run by the newspaper of the same name in Guangdong province, aired complaints over recent firings of two editors at the paper and orders for staff to attend political classes, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said Friday.

Reporters claimed the disciplinary moves were prompted by stories uncovering alleged government incompetence over an AIDS epidemic in central China and other official abuses.

Authorities closed the site on June 18, the Hong Kong-based group said.

The Democracy and Human Rights Internet forum, run by the popular Xici Hutong Web site, was shut after it carried discussions of taboo topics such as the official verdict that the bloody crackdown on the 1989 protests focused on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square was necessary to suppress a “counter-revolutionary riot,” the center said.

Authorities also closed Hot Topics, an e-mail magazine that carried news and editorials critical of the government, the center said. Hot Topics was produced four times a week and sent to 235,000 subscribers, the center said.

The Southern Weekend Forum’s main page carried a message saying it was “closed for system adjustments.” Hot Topic’s Web page was blank and Xici Hutong’s Democracy and Human Rights forum couldn’t be accessed.

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