10/03/2017
 

Press Freedom in China Bulletin: March

China’s annual National Congress began on March 3, drawing hundreds of representatives and the top government officials to the meetings in Beijing. The authorities increased monitoring of both online and offline communications to ensure there would be no embarrassing incidents. Credit: WANG Zhao/AFP

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Welcome to IFJ Asia-Pacific’s monthly Press Freedom in China Campaign e-bulletin. The next bulletin will be sent on April 8, 2017.

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/

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1) Silence is the only option during National Congress

2) First White Paper on International Strategy of Cooperation on Cyberspace

3) Vice President of Criminal Court suspended from work after posting message on social media

4) Netizen punished with five days’ detention after posting about an outbreak of bird flu

5) Student charged with “inciting subversion of state power” for wearing teeshirt

6) Xinjiang netizen punished with 15 days’ detention for listening to Radio Free Asia

7) Editor punished with five years’ imprisonment after selling banned books

8) Photographer assaulted by medical workers

9) Vice Editor-in-Chief of Hong Kong Commercial Daily flees to US

10) Hong Kong media outlet under political threat

11) Chinese political cartoonist named a Global Hero

12) Two human rights lawyers forced to make a TV Confession

1)            Silence is the only option during National Congress

China’s annual National Congress began on March 3, drawing hundreds of representatives and the top government officials to the meetings in Beijing. The authorities increased monitoring of both online and offline communications to ensure there would be no embarrassing incidents.

A)           Traditional and online media have received instructions to escalate surveillance of all reports and posted messages. A feminist civil organization’s official website was suddenly shut down without explanation at the end of February. On February 28, the authorities issued a notice saying some websites would be shut down, and telling all internet service providers and administrators to pay attention to “internet safety” during the National Congress. The notice did not define “internet safety” or identify which websites would be shut down or for what period. On March4, the Cyberspace Administration Bureau in Beijing said the internet service of Phoenix TV seriously violated the regulation. The bureau said Phoenix did not seek official approval but had sent journalists to conduct interviews during the meetings and republished overseas news reports. Two of its internet programs were suspended until Phoenix showed an improvement.

B)            On March 3, BBC journalist John Sudworth reported that he and his TV crew were attacked, harassed and forced to sign a statement admitting they had conducted an “illegal interview” with a petitioner. The report said a group of people blocked the way when Sudworth and the crew were going to the interviewee’s house. When the crew kept going, the unidentified people assaulted them and smashed their cameras. When the crew left the village, the group of about 20 people followed and surrounded them. The attackers included several uniformed police officers and two officials from the local foreign affairs office. They forced the crew to delete some of their footage and to sign a statement admitting they were guilty of “behaviour causing a bad impact”.

C)            The wife of a human rights lawyer was monitored by several state security agents and asked her not to leave the family home. According to several overseas media reports published on March 1, Li Wenzu, the wife of Wang Quanzhang, wished to take her child to hospital but was not allowed to go on her own. Security agents escorted her all the way. The agents did not explain why they needed to monitor Li at that time. Wang is charged with subversion of state power.

2) First White Paper on International Strategy of Cooperation on Cyberspace

On March 1, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Cyberspace Administration of China released a White Paper titled “International Strategy of Cooperation on Cyberspace”. The paper says that China, like other countries, has the right to choose its own path towards cyber development and its own model of cyber regulation and internet policy. It also has the right to participate in international cyberspace governance on an equal footing with other nations. The White Paper asserts that upholding sovereignty in cyberspace not only reflects governments' responsibility and right to administer cyberspace in accordance with law, but also enables countries to build platforms for sound interactions among governments, businesses and social groups. This will foster a healthy environment for the advancement of information technology and international exchange and cooperation, it says.

3) Vice President of Criminal Court suspended from work after posting message on social media

A judicial officer in Yunnan Province was punished because his social media post was perceived as mockery of the Communist Party. Li Bingxiang, Vice President of the Criminal Court, posted a message on social media expressing his feelings about a policeman working in snowy weather on February 26. The Party said Li’s message had “a serious influence” and this made it inappropriate for him to continue performing his duties. In the post, Li said the fact that the policeman was still on duty in such weather could have had three possible causes. The first possible cause was that the policeman was being punished after he made a mistake. The second and the third were that “it’s a show”. The senior management of the People’s Court reprimanded Li after they became aware of his post. Li offered an apology and deleted the message. However the Communist Party Disciplinary section of the Court intervened in the case and suspended Li from duty, in accordance with Section 26 of Regulations of the Discipline Inspection of Examination Cases.

4) Netizen punished with 5 days’ detention after posting about an outbreak of bird flu

A woman with the surname Chen was punished with five days’ administrative detention for allegedly spreading rumours of an outbreak of deadly bird flu on February 18. Chen’s post went viral on social media network WeChat. The post said the outbreak of H7N9 human infection had affected eight medical workers and some family members after a villager in Xiantao City became ill. At least 87 people have died of avian flu across China since January 2017.

5) Student charged with “inciting subversion of state power” for wearing teeshirt

A graduate of a US college, Kwon Pyong , was charged with “inciting subversion of state power” after he put on a teeshirt mocking President Xi Jinping. The indictment also cited 15 comments that Kwon posted on his Twitter and Facebook accounts in February. Just days before his trial began, Kwon Pyong’s lawyers were dismissed. This tactic is increasingly being used by Chinese authorities to block activists’ right to effective legal representation. Kwon Pyong was detained by police on September 30, 2016. He had planned to carry out a protest the next day, China’s National Day, by wearing a teeshirt printed with slogans mocking President Xi.

6) Xinjiang netizen punished with 15 days’ detention for listening to Radio Free Asia

On February 18, a netizen in Xinjiang, Meng Juntao, was sentenced to 15 days in administrative detention. The indictment said Meng used a virtual private network called “Super VPN” on his cell phone to listen to Radio Free Asia and other “anti-government” websites January 8. This was a violation of section 80 of the Counterterrorism Law of China and section 50 of the Implementation of Counterterrorism Law in Xinjiang.

7) Editor imprisoned for five years after selling banned books

An editor at Guangxi Normal University Press, Dai Xuelin, was sentenced for five years’ imprisonment on charges of illegally operating a business. On February 11, Hong Kong-based Ming Pao Daily reported that Dai was charged with illegally operating a business from May 2015 to May 2016 in China. The charges said Dai brought so-called banned book from Hong Kong and sold them on the Mainland. In just a year, Dai sold more than 1300 books brought in from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

8) Photographer assaulted by medical workers

A photographer with Shenzhen Media Group, Bai Mang, was being punched, kicked and repeatedly hit with a trash can on March 2. According to Sixth-tone online media report, Bai was reporting a labour dispute between a nurse and CG Xiao Hospital, the nurse’s former employer. When Bai arrived, he was blocked by several people, including medical staffs and security agents, and beaten by about five people. One man struck Bai’s head several times and hit him repeatedly with a metal garbage can. Another man wearing a white doctor’s coat jabbed Bai. His attackers broke his camera.

9) Vice Editor-in-Chief of Hong Kong Commercial Daily flees to US

On February 8, Long Zhenyang, the vice editor-in-chief of Hong Kong Commercial Daily, which is indirectly controlled by China’s Central Government, reportedly sought asylum in the US. Radio Free Asia reported that Long felt China had been reverting to the era of the 1960s Maoist Cultural Revolution since Xi Jinping became the President. Long also said his family members on the Mainland were harassed by local government officials and senior managers of Hong Kong Commercial Daily.

10) Hong Kong media outlet under political threat

On February 21, Hong Kong media outlet Sing Pao released an urgent statement claiming that unidentified people began hanging around its offices in mid-February. The unknown people followed and took pictures of several senior managers, then started loitering near their homes. Posters featuring images of the managers, accompanied by malicious messages, were displayed on the streets. The managers received countless harassing phone calls, emails and letters. Although Sing Pao lodged a complaint with the police, the thugs did not stop the harassment. The editor-in-chief ‘s house was daubed with red paint on February 26. Sing Pao repeatedly said the harassment was related to the election for Chief Executive of Hong Kong scheduled for March 26. Since August 2016, Sing Pao has published a series of commentaries criticising three officials involved in the administration of Hong Kong. The three are Zhang Dejiang, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee of China who is the top Mainland official responsible for Hong Kong and Macau affairs; Zhang Xiaoming, Director of the Chinese Liaison Office, which represents China’s Central Government in Hong Kong; and Leung Chun-Ying, Hong Kong Chief Executive. The articles described them as a “gang” and a “scourge” on Hong Kong.

11) Chinese political cartoonist named a Global Hero

Rebel Pepper, one of China’s best-known political cartoonists, was named a Global Hero and shortlisted in the Index on Censorship’s 2017 Freedom of Expression Awards. Rebel Pepper – the pen name of Wang Liming – frequently satirises President Xi Jinping. He has lived in Japan since 2014, when serious threats against him were posted on government-sanctioned forums while he was there on holiday. The Chinese government has disconnected him from his fan base by repeatedly deleting his social media accounts. He claims his conversations with friends and family are under state surveillance, and his self-imposed exile has brought significant financial struggles.

12) Two human rights lawyers forced to make a TV Confession

On 1 March, the Global Times, People’s Daily sister newspaper, and Phoenix TV , Mainland funded HK media, exclusively reported a ‘confession’ report of two detained lawyer Xie Yang and Jiang Tianyong . Xie and Jiang were classified as human rights lawyers due to they had defended many grass root rights and politically sensitive cases in the past. The pair were detained since 2016 for inciting subversion of State power and disturbing of the court order, and illegally holding national secrets and subversion of State power respectively. According to a journalist who told IFJ that the report was organized by police. “They even directing media to use which quote for their report.” The journalist said. At the same time, the news report was actually conducted by Global Times only instead of two media outlets.  

IFJ Asia-Pacific  
http://www.ifj.org/regions/asia-pacific/

Ifj(at)ifj-asia(dot)org

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