10/04/2018
 

Press Freedom in China Bulletin: APRIL

Benny Tai (centre L), who founded the Occupy movement that helped galvanise rallies in 2014 calling for democratic reforms, chants slogans after speaking to the media outside the District Court for his trial on public nuisance charges for the 2014 'Umbrella Movement' rallies in Hong Kong on September 19, 2017. Credit: ISAAC LAWRENCE / AFP

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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 May 8, 2018.

To contribute news or information, email ifj(at)ifj-asia(dot)org. To visit the IFJ’s China Campaign page, go to http://www.ifj.org/regions/asia-pacific/

View the IFJ media violations in China map here.

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Please distribute this bulletin widely among colleagues in the media.

Download the simplified Chinese version here

Download the traditional Chinese version here

In this bulletin:

1)    President for Life: China Constitution amendment passes

2)    Journalist ‘eye roll’ sees two lose accreditation for Congress

3)    Hong Kong independence comments lead to freedom of speech row

4)    No media reports on human rights lawyer, missing for two years

5)    Propaganda department strengthens control in movie clampdown

6)    Feminist Voices silenced on International Women’s Day

7)    Human Rights activist charged with subversion of state power

8)    Writers blocked from entering Macau

 

1)    President for Life: China Constitution amendment passes

On March 11, at the National People’s Congress, China’s parliament voted to amend the Constitution to remove the two term limit on the role of President and Vice President. The vote was passed with 2,964 ‘yes’ votes, three abstentions and only two ‘non votes. The result came as no surprise. The South China Morning Post published a comment from Professor Patricia Thornton from the University of Oxford, who said that the low veto and abstention votes are evidence of a “worrying trend that has suppressed not only debate, but even expressions of the plurality of opinion, within the upper echelons of the party elite.”

As reports began to appear in the lead up to the National People’s Congress that the amendment would be voted on, China’s censors went into overdrive, as discussion broke out online. Key words including Jinping, ‘life term’ and ‘Winnie the Pooh’ were blocked on Weibo.

2)    Journalist ‘eye roll’ sees two lose accreditation for Congress

Zhang Huijin from American Multimedia Television and USA and Liang Xiangyi from a Yicai financial news outlet from Shanghai were covering the National People’s Congress. On March 13, Zhang put several questions to Xiao Yaqinge, the Director of the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission during a press conference. During the questions, Liang was filmed rolling her eyes and making several facial expressions. The footage was captured by CCTV and immediately broadcast, including online. The footage sparked debate online, with some accusing Liang of not respecting the event, while other welcomed her expressions.

Social media was flooded with posts and memes of the eye-rolling footage, but the Chinese ‘censors’ quickly sprang the action, and according to several reports the authorities had warned Chinese journalists to ‘close their eyes to the eye roll’.

The following day, the office organising the National Congress issued a notice that it was revoking the press accreditation to both Zhang and Liang to enter the City Hall.

3)    Hong Kong independence comments lead to freedom of speech row

Benny Tai, an associate professor in law at the University of Hong Kong made comments at a forum in Taiwan in late March, which have been widely criticised by the Hong Kong government and pro-Beijing groups. On March 24 and 25, Benny Tai was attending a forum in Taiwan, when he made comments deemed to be promoting Hong Kong independence. After the comments were made public, on March 30, the Hong Kong government issued a statement “strongly condemning” Tai saying that “Hong Kong could consider becoming an independent state”. China Daily, the state owned media also condemned the statements and called on the Hong Kong government to take legal action against Tai.

Tam Yiu-Chung, the new deputy of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee criticised Tai’s comments, and said that the Hong Kong government needed to enact Article 23 legislation before the term ends in June 2022. Article 23 under the Basic Law prohibits treason, secession, sedition, and subversion against the Central Government.

4)    No media reports on human rights lawyer, missing for two years

Wang Quanzhang has been in police custody for 1,000 days, during which time, his family and legal team have denied visitation rights. On April 4, Wang’s wife, Li Wenzu launched a campaign, to walk from Beijing to Tianjin to demand access to her husband. Not a single media outlet reported on this.

In August 2015, during a government-led crackdown, human rights lawyer, Wang Quangzhang disappeared. In the lead up his disappearance he had taken on several high profile legal cases, including the torture of Falun Gong practitioners by police. Since then, his Wang’s wife and his legal team have been denied access. Li has launched several applications to the police, and has also launched several actions in the court, complaining about the failure of the police to follow legal procedures and grant her access to her husband. None have been successful.

5)    Propaganda department strengthens control in movie clampdown

According to a Central Government working paper, all news from China Central Television, China National Radio and China Radio International will be consolidated and renamed Voice of China, when broadcast overseas. The latest move has seen the Central Propaganda Department strengthen its control of movies and publications, and will now control all means related to ideology.

Tuo Zhen, the deputy of the Central Propaganda Department was also appointed as the Chief Editor of the People’s Daily, a government-owned newspaper on April 3. Tuo was involved in the ‘Southern Weekly intervention’ in 2013, in which the paper was forced to publish a ‘new year editorial’ glorifying the Communist Party.

6)    Feminist Voices silenced on International Women’s Day

On March 8, International Women’s Day, Feminist Voices, a Beijing-based organisation reported that their social media accounts were shut, after they received a notice of ‘irregularities’ with their content. According to the Hong Kong Free Press, the editor of Feminist Voices called for a reason, and Weibo said that they had “distributed sensitive content that was in violation of regulations”, however did not specify which content they were referring to. Just days earlier on March 6, Feminist Voices had launched a campaign against sexual harassment.

7)    Human Rights activist charged with subversion of state power

Zhen Jianghua, a human rights activist was charged with inciting subversion of the state power on March 29. The charges came after Zhen was detained in September 2017. Zhen is the executive director of ATGFW.org which provides tools and information about China’s Great Firewall. Zhen’s lawyer complained he had tried to visit him on multiple occasions and his access has been denied. Zhen is also an administrator of a human rights website which reported a lot of human rights violation cases in the grass root level.

8)    Writers blocked from entering Macau

The programme director of Macau’s literary festival, Hélder Beja, stepped down after the local authorities advised them that they could not guarantee entry for three prominent writers, James Church, Jung Chang and Suki Kim. The Hong Kong Free Press said that the authorities did not give a clear reason as to why they couldn’t guarantee the trios entry, only saying ‘ill-timing’. Beja said: “I can’t say if freedom of expression is under threat in Macau, but I’m certainly not available to collaborate with any situation where freedom of expression is disregarded.”

 

IFJ Asia-Pacific

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

ifj(at)ifj-asia(dot)org

 

 

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