Press Freedom in China Bulletin: July

Welcome to IFJ Asia-Pacific’s monthly Press Freedom in China Campaign e-bulletin. The next bulletin will be sent onAugust8, 2016.

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In this bulletin:

1. Missing Hong Kong media worker; intimidated and threatened

2. Hong Kong Journalists Associations releases annual report

3. Hong Kong media threatened on the Mainland

4. Citizen journalists and Director of a Publication detained but police did not announce.

5. Only state media granted access to court hearing of President’s aide

6. Hong Kong journalist searched by police without reason

7. Cyberspace Administration of China demand all social media to verify information before publishing

 

1. Missing Hong Kong media worker; intimidated and threatened

Lam Wing Kee is one of five Hong Kong Causeway Bay book store employees who disappeared in the latter half of 2015. Lam, along with his four colleagues were detained by Mainland authorities for up to eight months. Lam was detained in October 2015 and held in Ningbo, Zhejiang until he was granted permission to travel back to Hong Kong on June 14.

Following his release, on June 16, Lam gave an interview to Hong Kong media about his detention. During his interview, Lam said that he was detained in a confined cell and regularly interrogated, estimated it at more than 30 times. He was regularly asked for the details of bookstore customers, especially those who purchased ‘banned books’, as well as his cooperation with Gui Minhai, another employee who was detained.

On June 30, Lam made a statement to Hong Kong Police after he was followed to unidentified people. The police said that there was no evidence to suggest that Lam’s personal safety was under threat. However on July 5, the Hong Kong Secretary for Justice, Rimsky Yuen and the Hong Kong Secretary for Security, Lai Tung-kwok, flew to Beijing to have a meeting wit their Mainland counterparts to discuss the notification mechanism, whereby Mainland authorities must notify the Hong Kong government about the detention of its residents. The mechanism was not used following the disappearance of the five bookstore employees. During the meeting, it was reported that the Mainland Security Bureau said that Lam is a wanted person and threatened that should Lam not report to the Bureau, the Bureau will ‘change the nature and enforce the implementation’, without provided specific details of the charges against him. Reports suggest that the charges against Lam include ‘involved in an illegal operation of business in the Mainland’, although he has not been officially charged.

On 6 July, Hong Kong’s Mingpao Daily reported that Lam admitted that several people were stalking him. On one of the occasions, they followed Lam back to his residence. Police told him that him that one of the followers was a retired fire fighter and he claimed he followed Lam out of curiosity. However police did not identify the others who were following him. They promised to continue investigating the case and will provide personal protection to Lam upon his request.   

2. Hong Kong Journalists Associations releases annual report

The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) released its annual report, One Country, Two Nightmares, outlining the state of press freedom in Hong Kong. The report revealed the serious threats facing press freedom and the media in Hong Kong as the spill over of Mainland ideological control continues, with the report detailing deeper incursions by Beijing onto Hong Kong’s autonomy.

The 2015 press freedom index dropped by 0.7 points to 38.2 for journalists and 1.4 points to 47.4 for the general public which reflects the press freedom situation is declining. HKJA has called on the local government to take a much more robust approach toward the protection of press freedom in particular of take a strong approach to protect the “One Country, Two Systems”.

Read the report here.

3. Hong Kong media threatened on Mainland

On June 17, Communist Party secretary and the former elected chief of Wukan village, Lin Zuluan was arrested. Following his arrest, local villagers organized a protest, with Hong Kong media outlets sending journalists to cover. On June 21, the Shenwei Government organized a press conference, without notice for accredited media, regarding the escalating conflict between Wukan villagers and local village officers. During the press conference, the Government spokesperson named two Hong Kong media outlets, Apple Daily and Initium media, accusing the outlets of ‘inciting, orchestrating and directing (events) in Wukan village’. The spokesperson went on to say that the government would exercise measures according to the law.

Following the press conference, a list, referred to as a ‘media-list’ was disseminated online, without a clear source. Some of the media listed however, had not sent journalists to cover the protests in Wukan village. Following the accusations made by the Shinwei Government, a number of journalists left Wukan village, fearing their own safety and villagers ended the protests.

One Hong Kong journalist said: “When we were heading to the village, there were a lot of road blocks on the main street. Some of the vehicles were checked by policemen.” she added “we are a bit worry after the accusation though all media including Hong Kong and overseas media did not involve in any protest or even orchestrating any event.”

Read morehere

4. Two citizen journalists were detained by police in Yunnan

On 16 June, citizen journalists, Lu Yuyu and Li Tingyu were detained by police in Dali, Yunnan province on allegations of picking quarrels and provoking trouble. However police did not confirm their detainment until June 25. Lu, a citizen journalist who reports on protests across China including on land exploration, wage arrears, official corruption and environmental pollution. One case he was reporting on was that of He Linxia the General Director of the Guangxi Normal University Press (Group) who is accused of accepting a bribe of the Guangxi police.

In mid-June, some media reporting He’s case and said that He was actually detained by police in May, although they had only just announced his detention. At the same time, He was removed from his position with the Press Group without any reason.

5. Only state media granted access to court hearing of President’s aide

On 4 July, Ling Jihua, aide to former President of China, Hu Jintao, was sentenced to life in prison for taking more than 77 million yuan in bribes, illegally obtaining state secrets and abuse of power. Only state media, Xinhua and China Central Television, were granted access to the court room to report the case. The trial started on June 7 at the Tianjin No 1 Intermediate People's Court and was a closed-door trial. No media including state media reported on the trial, only sentencing.

6. Hong Kong journalist searched by police without reason

On 1 July, two journalists from Next magazine reported that they were stopped and searched by Hong Kong police officers without a reason. According to the report, they were going to the Chinese Liaison Office in the Western District, as three radical groups planned protests there. A large number of police were deployed around the area. The journalists said they showed their press cards and ID to police but police demanded to search their bags. Following the incident, police refused to reveal why they searched the journalists, but they were allowed to continue and cover the protests.

7. Cyberspace Administration of China demand all social media to verify information before publishing

On 3 July, the Cyberspace Administration of China issued a notice to all online media that they have to verify all information before they publish it online. It said that news sites must credit all sources, and they are prohibited from fabricating stories or distorting facts. Some scholars criticized the aim of the notice was to further stifle online freedom of expression and press freedom. One scholar, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “Verification is a duty of a news media that all journalists know too well however this notice is aiming at social media which suppose anyone can leave their idea or comments in the internet. But the Office impose the burden to all administrators which is unfair and intended to force the administrators to self-censor.”

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