Forget rickety elevators, jostling on crowded platforms or terrorists. Authorities in Beijing have pinpointed the latest danger to subway passengers - newspapers. A directive by Beijing's public transport police has banned the sale of newspapers in the city's 70-plus subway stations, with one exception - a municipal government-affiliated tabloid. Rival newspapers have cried foul, saying the move is an attempt to stifle competition, while commuters have accused the government of wasting time on pointless issues. Quoting an official in charge of newspaper vending in the subway network, The Beijing News reported that newsstands would be removed from inside stations because of safety concerns. The official said all the newsstands were removed by Saturday, but the directive specifically stated that Beijing Star Daily, a tabloid under municipal mouthpiece Beijing Daily, could still be distributed because 'it is the only metro paper endorsed by the municipal party publicity department'. Just as in Hong Kong, Beijing's rapidly expanding subway system is an important distribution point, particularly for down-market tabloids and free sheets. Beijing Star Daily switched from a loss-making daily tabloid to a free sheet two years ago to target commuters. Management at The Beijing News, the most popular tabloid in the capital, did not respond to requests for comment yesterday. But it ran several reports and a commentary accusing the police and subway authorities of creating a monopoly. It also quoted Jin Feng , an official in charge of distribution at rival Beijing Times, who said his paper would argue its case with the authorities after getting complaints from readers. 'Only allowing Beijing Star Daily to be distributed at subway stations amounts to unfair competition,' Jin said. Zhou Ze, a Beijing-based media law specialist, said the move was ridiculous. 'If you allow one newspaper to sell or distribute, there is no reason to stop other newspapers from doing so,' he said. 'What they've done is an abuse of power because it constitutes a monopoly.' Zhou said there was no evidence that newsstands created a safety risk, so the reasoning behind the ban was unsound. Beijing launched a massive crackdown on subway newsstands in 2003, but mobile newspaper vendors made a quiet comeback two years later, under the watch of police and subway authorities. However, government control fetishes appear to be resurfacing, with micromanaging rules and regulations being promulgated recently. Last week, the General Administration of Press and Publication announced that new books sold online could have a maximum discount of 15 per cent. And despite initially being introduced to ensure safety during the run-up to the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic on October 1, commuters in Beijing still have to pass bags through scanners at most stations, creating considerable queues at peak times. Commuter Sun Jiaqing said the crackdown was a classic example of official thinking, namely that it was better to do less to minimise the risk of getting it wrong. 'It's like stopping eating to avoid choking,' he said. Laurie Luo, a marketing manager who takes the subway each day, said she suspected the decision was based on favouritism rather than safety concerns. 'Has anyone done any research on whether it's safer to sell one paper or no papers at all?' Luo said.