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China moved Saturday to restrict distribution of a popular and highly controversial TV documentary series after a senior Communist Party leader denounced the program and warned that "intellectuals are dangerous."

The remarks by party Vice President Wang Zhen sent ripples of alarm among China's writers, artists and scholars who said they fear the action may signal a new government crackdown on freedom of expression.Wang delivered a stinging attack against the six-part television series "He Shang," or "River Elegy," at the closing session of a Communist Party Central Committee meeting last week, sources close to the series said.

The documentary series, which blames China's historic failure to open to the West for the decline of Chinese civilization, was broadcast twice last summer by state-run Chinese Central Television, sparking both nationwide praise and fierce debate.

"As I see it, this film curses the Yellow River and the Great Wall, and vilifies our great Chinese people," local news reports quoted the conservative Marxist and former associate of Mao Tse-tung as saying.

"I fought for so many years to rule this country, yet now I run into this band of professors and graduate students (who created the series). I have never been so angry," Wang reportedly said. "Intellectuals are dangerous."

Sources close to the series said Chinese customs authorities Saturday began implementing a ban on the distribution of videotapes of the series to foreign countries or between Chinese provinces.

Propaganda officials already have prohibited discussion or mention of River Elegy in the news media and ordered CCTV to halt all sales of the videotape inside China, the sources said.