There were hints on Thursday from China's top publicity official, Cai Wu, that new regulations granting foreign journalists more freedom to report in the country -- which go into effect next week -- may be prolonged after the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
On December 1 China issued a set of regulations granting foreign journalists more freedom to report on the country in the run-up to -- and during -- the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The regulations come into being on January 1, 2007 and end on October 17, 2008.
Answering a question raised by an Icelandic reporter, Cai said, "If the new regulations prove beneficial to our development and to exchanges between us and foreign media and if they aid communication with the international community then I imagine there will be no need to change the policy." But he pointed out these were his personal views and not a formal announcement.
Cai said the new rules contained several changes from the Regulations on the Supervision of Foreign Journalists and Resident Foreign News Organs issued in 1990.
"Many changes have taken place in China and in the world since the 1990 regulations were issued, we needed to bring the regulations up to date," he said. And he pointed out that "the Olympic Games provide us with a good opportunity to adjust the regulations."
There are currently 606 resident journalists from 319 foreign news organizations of 49 countries working in China. Between 3-5,000 foreign journalists visit China annually.
At the press conference Cai also explained that the government’s news release and spokesperson system had been further improved. To date 74 departments under the State Council have put the system in place with 91 spokespersons appointed. China's 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions have all introduced the system and engaged 52 spokespersons.
Spokespersons from the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Health, the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council and the Shanghai Municipal Government hold press conferences regularly at a fixed time and venue to release news and information for Chinese and overseas media.
Their achievements are particularly remarkable. Cai gave details showing that since the beginning of 2006 the State Council Information Office had held 58 press conferences giving journalists easy access to important information provided by central government organs and departments under the State Council.
Departments under the State Council and governments of provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions have held 506 and 757 press conferences respectively. The total number of press conferences held on the three tiers reached 1,321 in the past year.
In excess of 40 vice ministers have hosted press conferences here. This year 59 leading officials of various departments above the vice-ministerial level, including 12 ministers, hosted such events.
Information of Spokespersons
(China.org.cn, Xinhua News Agency December 28, 2006)