Malaysia's Straits Times reports today that in China "new rules ban independent reporting that has not been approved by the government, discussing sensitive issues such as economic failures, and running any posting [on the Internet] that challenges the Communist Party. 'The reason why they did this is very obvious,' said Mr Li Fang, chief editor of Netease Review. 'The Communist Party thinks the Internet news comments are putting them under too much pressure from public opinion.' While the government has gone after individual columns and news discussion sites in the past, insiders say this is the first time it has adopted such a systematic approach to the genre. Internet employees believe senior party officials have been rattled by the medium's ability to shape public opinion and air citizen outrage, citing the furore sparked by the light sentence given to a well-connected woman who ploughed into a crowd and killed a peasant woman. [See our item about that incident] Online news editors were reportedly told they could run only news vetted in major state-controlled newspapers above the provincial level. Postings by ordinary Internet users are not permitted without prior approval. There was ample evidence of the change on major news discussion group sites on Wednesday, when attempts to enter a news discussion group on Sina.com were blocked by a message saying the page was unavailable."