CHINA yesterday defended its decision to impose a news blackout on the Preparatory Committee's first sub-group meetings. Foreign Ministry spokesman Shen Guofang said the 150-member committee had its own working regulations and procedures. While Beijing recognised the need for transparency, this did not mean discussions should be disclosed after every meeting. The committee's working rules, adopted at its first plenum last month, decided that its secretary-general would rule on matters relating to news briefings. Xinhua (the New China News Agency) told media representatives on Monday that applications to cover the two sub-group sessions had been rejected. A deputy secretary-general, Shiu Sin-por, dismissed suggestions that the blackout was dictatorial. He also denied that the blackout was a backward step from the procedures of the disbanded Preliminary Working Committee (PWC). 'It is the conclusion we learned from the experience of the PWC. Chaos often happened if an announcement was made ahead of any decision,' he said. Mr Shiu emphasised the committee would give the public full details of its conclusions. Today's opening sub-group session will deal with issues concerning the Special Administrative Region chief executive and will be followed by the first meeting of the Selection Committee sub-group. Last night, members due to attend the meetings received a one-page, four-line agenda, labelled: 'Attention: Confidential.' It says two issues will be discussed: work for the chief executive before taking office and selection method of the chief executive. Committee member Frederick Fung Kin-kee rejected the argument that the committee did not need press coverage when it had yet to make a decision. 'Whoever thought of the proposal should have taken into account the political impact,' he said. 'The press and readers may have interests in things being discussed other than our decisions. Such information may help them develop further understanding about issues.' He and another member, Cheng Yiu-tong, said they would ask that news briefings be allowed about every meeting. Committee member Victor Sit Fung-shuen said there was no need to disclose everything the committee discussed, and fellow members Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai and Xu Simin agreed it was not convenient for them to disclose contents of their discussions before their views were finalised.