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China eases restrictions for foreign media
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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao  

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao 

China issued new rules  on reporting activities by foreign correspondents on its territory on Friday, allowing them to interview without application to foreign affairs departments.

"The new rules follow the major principles and spirits of the media regulations introduced for the Beijing Olympics," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said at a late night press conference.

The conference began 15 minutes before the expiry of the temporary Olympic rules, which were introduced on January 1, 2007 and removed media restrictions on foreign reporters during the Beijing Games.

"In the form of a long-lasting law, the 23-item new rules make that temporary arrangement a standard practice," Liu said.

"The new regulations are significantly different from those issued in 1990," the spokesman said.

Foreign reporters wishing to interview organizations or individuals in China no longer need to be received and accompanied by the relevant Chinese organizations, Liu said.

It canceled an item in the old version that asked foreign reporters to get approval from the local government's foreign affairs department when they wanted to do reporting in the regions open to them.

The new rules also lifted an item asking them to get approval from the Foreign Ministry when they wanted to visit the regions not open to them and register at the police.

"Foreign reporters still need to ask for permission to do reporting in Tibet and other areas that are off-limits to foreign reporters, like some military facilities," Liu said.

The 17th item of the new rules said foreign reporters need to gain agreement from the person or organization to be interviewed while they are working in China.

According to the new rules, permanent offices of foreign media and reporters can "temporarily" import, install and use radio communication devices for news reporting after gaining approvals from the Chinese government according to laws.

"China adopts a basic policy of opening up to the outside world, protects the lawful rights and interests of the permanent offices of foreign media organizations and foreign journalists in accordance with law, and facilitates their news coverage and reporting activities that are carried out according to law," the new rules said.

The rules asked resident foreign reporters to apply for a press card to the Foreign Ministry or local foreign affairs departments within seven working days after their arrival in China.

With press cards, they also need to get residency cards from the local police where they are to stay.

Press cards of those who stay in China for less than six months every year will be revoked, the document said.

Resident foreign reporters or those for short-term news reporting in China shall apply for a journalist visa.

The new rules do not ask resident foreign reporters to renew their press cards annually.

Permanent offices of foreign media and reporters may hire Chinese citizens to do auxiliary work but have to hire them from organizations designated by the Foreign Ministry or local governments to provide services to foreign nationals, according to the new rules.

The new rules took effect from October 17.

(Xinhua News Agency October 18, 2008)

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