Xinhua's newly underlined status as a media watchdog is temporary, a senior official said yesterday. A government department will eventually take over the responsibility, the South China Morning Post reported. General Administration of Press and Publications Vice Minister Liu Binjie said: "In future, they will come under the supervision of a government department. As we improve the law and regulation, this problem will be resolved." Hammered by questions from reporters, Liu did not specify the length of the "transitional period" in which Xinhua would have a virtual stranglehold on delivering news and financial information in China. Liu also said the circular issued Sunday by Xinhua, which has been widely criticized in and out of China, was merely an affirmation of a policy issued in 1996.