08/03/2018
 

Press Freedom in China Bulletin: MARCH

Journalists attend a press conference prior to the opening session of the 19th Communist Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 17, 2017. Credit: Fred DUFOUR / AFP

Categoría:

Asia Pacific, News, News, ASIA PACIFIC, Campaigns, Reports, Events, Meeting, Workshop, Conference

Welcome to IFJ Asia-Pacific’s monthly Press Freedom in China Campaign e-bulletin. The next bulletin will be sent on April 8, 2018

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In this bulletin:

1)    National meetings in Beijing see government clampdown

2)    Proposed amendments to Chinese Constitution criticised worldwide

3)    Journalists relatives detained in Xinjiang

4)    Southern Weekly Magazine suspected of self-censorship

5)    Tibet Government holds back information after Monastery fire

6)    Administrative detention for two over photo

7)    RTHK Union challenges retirement policy

8)    Next Media lay off thirty magazine workers

9)    Ming Pao urge police Commissioner to follow up assault case

 

1)    National meetings in Beijing see government clampdown

The annual meetings of the Chinese National Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference were held in early March, and as usual the authorities took repressive steps to control the flow of information online and offline.

a)    February 14, 2018: The head of the online broadcasting section of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) demanded a meeting with 17 Beijing-based online broadcasters to ensure that all content of the livestreamed Q&A program was in line with the Community Party line. Similar meetings were also organised in Shanghai and Guangdong.

b)   February 15, 2018: Cai Zhaoming, the publisher of Xinhua News Agency, wrote an article for Qiushi, the journalist of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, reminding the media of their role and that their surname is ‘the Party’. The article went on to say that journalists have to promote Xi’s spirit, and take on the role of guiding public opinion.

c)    February 26, 2018: Bao Tong, the policy secretary of Zho Ziyang, the late Premier of China, was warned not to accept any media interview, post any articles on social media or attend any dinner gatherings with friends until March 20, 2018, after the two meetings have closed. The warning was sent to Bao after he criticised the proposed amendments to the Chinese Constitution in an article on Radio Free Asia on February 25.

d)   February 26, 2018: The Weibo account of a citizen journalist was abruptly terminated. The journalist believes that it was because she had disseminated a letter on her account which was authored by 55 journalists and scholars who were criticising the proposed Constitution amendments. Weibo said that the account had violated its regulations, but did not specify which ones.

e)    February 28, 2018: Just two days prior to the opening of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference on March 3, the head of the press office for the meetings held a briefing for journalists who had received press accreditations. In the briefing, journalists were asked to ‘promote the main theme’ of the meetings and focus on Xi’s new ideas. The press office also arranged two routes for Government heads and meeting representatives to use, as to not be surrounded by journalists. The arrangement was strongly criticised by the media as it would block chances of getting responses from the participants.               

2)    Proposed amendments to Chinese Constitution criticised worldwide

On February 25, Xinhua News Agency reported that the Central Committee of the Communist Party has proposed amendments to several clauses of the Chinese Constitution. The amendments including adding ‘Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era’ and ‘Chinese Communist Party leadership is the Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’, forming a new Supervisory Committee. However the amendment which has received the most criticism is the change to political terms, changing the current two term limit to ‘life’.

On March 4, Zhang Yesui, the spokesperson of the National People’s Congress rebuked the criticism and said that “the Constitution, which reflects the common will of the Communist Party of China and Chinese people, is China’s fundamental law and the general chapter for governing the country well and ensuring national security”.
The proposed amendments will be voted on during the National Congress on March 11, 2018.

Following the release of the Xinhua report, netizens across Mainland China have had difficulties online. On Weibo, comments sections below articles posted by state media outlets including Xinhua were disabled, with only comments by the People’s Daily account able to be viewed.

According to censor-monitoring websites China Digital Times and Free Weibo the Chinese censors went into overdrive, and any posts which used the words: I don’t agree, migration, re-election, election term, constitution amendment, constitution rules, proclaiming oneself as emperor and Winnie the Pooh; were delete. According to HKFP search results for ‘Yuan Shikai’ and ‘Winnie the Pooh’ were banned from being displayed on Weibo, ‘according to relevant laws, regulations and policies’.

3)    Journalists relatives detained in Xinjiang

According to Amnesty International, around 20 relatives of US-based, Uygher journalist, Gulchehra Hoja were detained in Xinjiang. Hoja has worked for Radio Free Asia in the US for the past 17 years, and it is believed that her family has been targeted for her work. Gulchehra has been unable to contact her 72-year-old mother since January, and has also being unable to reach her father who is in hospital, partially paralysed following a stroke. Her borther, Kaiser Keyum, was detained by authorities in October 2017.

Gulchehra believes that her family is at risk of torture.

4)    Southern Weekly Magazine suspected of self-censorship

According to reports by Ming Pao, Southern Weekly Magazine, which is under the supervision of the Communist Party propaganda branch in Guangdong, suddenly withdrew two investigative financial reports about Heinan Airlines (HNA) Group on February 8, without reason. The report said that one of the journalists, who had written the article, Huang He, posted the original articles online with an attached note. The note said that he had been given the assignment to investigate the finance situation of HNA Group in mid-January. However just one day before scheduled publication, he was informed that his two in-depth reports would not be published. After the articles were ‘killed’, Duan Gongwei, the editor-in-chief was reportedly removed and replaced by Wang Wei, who was the editor-in-chief of Southern Magazine, the sister publication.

5)    Tibet Government holds back information after Monastery fire

On February 17, 2018, several media outlets reported that a fire had broken out at the Jokhang Monastery in Lhasa, Tibet. The Monastery is more than 1,000 years old, and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Footage was posted online which showed fire engulfing the Monastery 6pm. However, it wasn’t until 10pm that China Tibet Online confirmed the fire at the Monastery, confirming only minor details. The report did not outline the cause of the blaze, but did confirm that there were no injuries. The following day, the local Communist Party secretary of Tibet visited the site, emphasising that no cultural relics were damaged. However messages about the visit that were posted online were quickly deleted.

6)    Administrative detention for two over photo

On February 10, two men were accused of ‘provoking trouble’ for wearing the Japanese Army uniform and taking photos in front of an anti-Japanese war memorial. Police said that the pair posted the pictures online and quickly received public attention which was harming the feeling of the general public. The pair were punished with 15 days administrative detention.

7)    RTHK Union challenges retirement policy

RTHK Program Staff Union questioned Leung Ka-Wing, the director of broadcaster, after Lisa Liu, the deputy director of public broadcasting will be allowed to stay at RTHK for three months after she reached retirement ag e in April 2018. Gladys Chiu, the chairperson of RTHK staff union said that Leung could not explain why Liu would be allowed to stay on during a closed door meeting on February 23. According to sources in RTHK, staff are worried that Liu will cut political satire programs before she leaves. Liu is a civil servant of the Hong Kong Government.

8)    Next Media lay off thirty magazine workers

On February 27, the Next Media Trade Union announced that the management of Next Media had decided to lay off 30 workers from the entertainment, news and photographers section. The company also announced that going forward they would hire freelancers instead of employees as a means to reduce staff costs. Following the latest layoffs, New Media has approximately 40 staff members.

9)    Ming Pao urge police Commissioner to follow up assault case

In February 2016, a Ming Pao journalist was punched and kicked by several police officers during the Mong Kok unrest. The journalist complained to the Ming Pao Staff Association and lodged a complaint to the Complaints Against Police Office in March 2016. The Staff Association said that they are ‘extremely disappointed’ as the case has been delayed for two years and called on the Police Commissioner, Stephen Lo, to find a resolution to the case immediately.

IFJ Asia-Pacific

http://www.ifj.org/regions/asia-pacific/

Ifj(at)ifj-asia(dot)org

 

 

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