Satellite Dishes Get Static From Beijing

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

CHINA has imposed harsh restrictions on the use of satellite dishes nationwide in an effort to deflect foreign airwaves that it deems subversive. The restriction of satellite dishes is part of a sweeping effort by the conservative leadership to close China to outside ideas.

Since the June 1989 crackdown on liberal dissent, the leadership has sought to eradicate newspapers, magazines, and electronic media that promote ``bourgeois liberalization.'' Beijing last month announced a renewed effort to stop publications featuring politically threatening themes.

Satellite dishes sprouted atop leading hotels and regional television stations in the last decade as China opened itself up to foreign contacts. Still, only a small minority have access to foreign broadcasts.

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Conservative leaders believe that images of ``people power'' in the Philippines and South Korea helped spur the popular uprising in Beijing and other Chinese cities in the spring of 1989, say Chinese officials.

Sheng Yilai, from the world news department of China Central Television, says ``Foreign media and television programs influence Chinese views and to a certain extent this led to the turmoil of last year.''

The regulations, drawn up in part by China's secret police, require all offices capable of receiving foreign satellite transmissions to obtain a license from the Ministry of Radio, Film, and Television.

Beijing restricts the shows an office may receive, the satellite its dish may be aimed at, and the eventual audience of the broadcast, according to a copy of the regulations. Offices must file a record of taped shows with the police and allow only ``specially assigned personnel'' to maintain archives.

An office that defies the regulations will be subject to a fine of up to $4,228, revocation of its license, and possible criminal charges. Private Chinese who violate regulations would be subject to more severe penalties, according to the regulations.

Beijing has eased a restriction, imposed soon after the Beijing massacre, that limited foreign-produced television shows to 15 percent of total air time, says Mr. Sheng. Still, news reports broadcast in China ``should be socially responsible,'' Sheng says. ``For instance, if a lie is told in US newspapers or television, it is easier for American youth to see through it, but in China it is different: Chinese tend to believe what the media reports.''

The ban on foreign broadcasts pales next to the government's systematic book burning since June, 1989. Officials have destroyed 32 million books and magazines considered either pornographic or politically subversive, according to official reports. Courts convicted nearly 80,000 people of illegal publishing, while police shut down 7 percent of the country's publishers, 13 percent of its social science journals, and 12 percent of its newspapers.

A campaign against pornography announced last month will sweep away ``spiritual pollution and cultural garbage,'' said Liu Zhongde, the leader of the initial drive.

A recent front-page editorial in the Communist Party newspaper People's Daily indicated that police will use pornography as the stalking-horse in their attack on liberal ideas. ``The struggle against pornography ... is an ideological struggle between socialist and capitalist ideas,'' the newspaper said.

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