Party authorities have asked the media to stop public discussion of political reform as part of a nationwide effort to promote stability. Press sources said the order was given shortly before President Jiang Zemin's speech last Friday marking the 20th anniversary of Deng Xiaoping's reforms. 'The media have been told to steer clear of the sensitive subject of the reform of the political structure,' a Beijing source said. 'Sub-topics such as drafts of a proposed journalism law should also not be discussed.' Earlier, moderate cadres in the party's Central Committee and the legislature had pushed for an early enactment of a law on journalism, which might herald a relative degree of relaxation of censorship. The national media is only allowed to touch 'non-controversial political topics' such as ongoing campaigns against corruption and smuggling. The source said the Politburo Standing Committee had come to a consensus on the need to stop the expression of divergent views at the recently held National Work Meeting on the Economy. The meeting revealed problems of the economy, particularly social unrest which might be triggered by laid-off workers. However, a Western diplomat in Beijing said the Politburo's decision to mothball political reform had met opposition among the intelligentsia. A paper in the south was applauded by liberal cadres and intellectuals for running an interview with the former Guangdong leader Ren Zhongyi last week. Mr Ren, a respected elder, was quoted as saying the nation would benefit immensely from a faster pace of political liberalisation. At the same time, the media has been asked to dramatise ways and means introduced by Mr Jiang to minimise social instability and friction. For example, the President has expressed personal concern that needy workers will get special help in the run-up to the Lunar New Year. Units, including the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, are coming up with measures to ensure the livelihoods of unemployed workers. The press is also encouraged to play up new laws and regulations on social security for labourers.