Press Freedom in China Bulletin: October

Welcome to IFJ Asia-Pacific’s monthly Press Freedom in China Campaign e-bulletin. The next bulletin will be sent on November8, 2016.

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1) Ten journalists intimidated and assaulted by Guangdong riot police

2) More than ten thousand Weibo accounts shut down in 9 months

3) National censorship campaign re-launched

4) Xinjiang Government forces ‘real name’ registration for phone users

5) HK press freedom index dropped again

6) Chief Executive of HK suing HK media again

7) Newly elected pro-democracy legislative councillor ordered to stop writing column

8) Macau police deliberately defer revealing information to media

 

1)    Ten journalists intimidated and assaulted by Guangdong riot police

On the 14th of September, at least ten journalists and photographers - including those from Ming Pao Daily, HK01, South China Morning Post (SCMP), Reuters and Al Jazeera - were arrested by more than a dozen riot police in Wukan Village, Lufeng, Guangdong Province. The journalists told the IFJ that they were arrested despite possessing media accreditation in Mainland China.

Some journalists reported being punched in the stomach by riot police who broke into a villager’s house where they were staying. All of them were subsequently taken into a police station where they were interrogated by police for hours. One journalist told IFJ that the “Police were really hostile to us. They banged on the table, held us by our clothing and scolded and yelled at us. They accused us of illegally entering the village. However I do not think they have the right to bar us because I have accreditation from the authority of China. This act is violation of press freedom.”

Police allegedly attempted to look at the photographs journalists had taken, and their phones in order to read their text messages. Before the journalists were released, they were forced to sign a letter ensuring they would not return to the village. Police escorted the journalists to Shenzhen and returned to Hong Kong.

On the 13th of September onwards, it was reported that more than 3000 riot police surrounded Wukan village and arrested at least 70 villagers who were accused of organising illegal protests against the local government and disrupting social order. Riot police shot rubber bullets and used tear gas when villagers tried to resist.

2)    More than ten thousand Weibo accounts shut down in last 9 months

The Cyber Space Administration Office (CSAO) announced on the 29th of September that 11 459 public Weibo accounts were shut down in the first nine months in 2016. Shaanxi province in China’s north west had the most accounts shut down. The CSAO bureau in Shaanxi claimed that a total of 4724 accounts were closed due to “suspicion of disseminating rumours”.

On the 6th of September, the CSAO bureau in Shanghai announced that 18 Weibo accounts were violating regulations so 13 of them received a temporary shut down for a month and five accounts were permanently shut down.

3)    National censorship campaign re-launched

On the 5th September, the Public Security Bureau and several other departments re-launched a National censorship campaign. In several Mainland media reports, the authority cited a few examples revealing several publication companies had been involved in copyright infringement. However scholar, Zhou Tianyong, claimed that he was barred from publishing his book about the relationship between economic decline and the family planning in China without being given a reason.  

4)    Xinjiang Government forces ‘real name’ registration for phone users

On the 30th of September, the Xinjiang Government announced that a new set of regulations would be implemented on the 1st of October requiring all phone users in China to register their name and personal details with their providers within 60 days of the ruling otherwise their service would terminated.

The Telecom service providers are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring users spread ‘safe’ information. It is hoped that the new regulations will prevent people from carrying out illegal activities. The report did not reveal what consequences providers or users would face if they refused to comply.

5)    HK press freedom index position dropped

The Hong Kong University’s ‘Public Opinion Programme’, commissioned by IFJ affiliate, The Hong Kong Journalists Association, has revealed its latest rating of the credibility of Hong Kong news media. HK received 5.66 out of 10 – the lowest figure since October 2006.

According to the report, 49% of respondents believe that the media have practiced self-censorship because of their hesitation to criticise the Central Government and the Hong Kong local Government. Over half of respondents (59%) listed theinternet as their main source of news, the highest rating since the survey began in October 2000. In terms of performance satisfaction, respondent’s satisfaction rating of television has dropped by 9%, the lowest since December 1993.

6)    Chief Executive of HK suing HK media again

On the 29th of September, Leung Chun-Ying, Chief Executive of HK, issued a legal letter to Hong Kong Apple Daily after it criticised him in an editorial on the 8th of September. Apple Daily condemned Leung for the controversial payment of HK$50 million that he received from Australian engineering firm UGL when he tookoffice in 2012.

In the letter, Leung accused the Apple Daily of "The usage of the false corruption allegation to prevent Mr C.Y. Leung from exercising his constitutional right to stand for the re-election ... if he chooses to, demonstrates the very serious kind of malicious and injurious motive." Although Leung has not yet announced that he will re-run in the next term, he has been criticised by the public for consistently threatening the media with legal action. Since Leung became the Chief Executive of HK, he has been known to sue the media and individual persons; repeatedly chasing after the Apple Daily in particular.

7)    Newly elected pro-democracy legislative councillor ordered to stop writing column

On the 10th of September, Edward Yiu, a newly elected pro-democracy legislative councillor, was told to stop writing in a daily newspaper. According to Apple Daily, the pro-government free newspaper, Headline Daily, told Yiu he would no longer be able to contribute to the publication now that he was a politician. However, other politicians still write for the newspaper, including the spokesperson of Leung’s office. Yiu said he is unsure of the real reason he is no longer allowed a column, emphasising that he did not write about political matters.

8)    Macau police deliberately defer revealing information to media

On the 1st of October, the Macau Journalists Association accused the Public Security Bureau of Macau of deliberately failing to reveal information to the media when police were notified that two Macau hotels had received false bomb reports on the 28th of September 2016. In the statement, the Association said “When we asked the Police why they delayed revealing important information to us, they said we do not inform the media until we have eliminated all risk.”

The Association said the act was a clear violation of the people’s right to know. This is not the first time the authority has failed to alert the media - when the former Commissioner of Customs was found dead in a public toilet on the 30th of October 2015, the media were only informed after the crime scene had been cleaned up.

IFJ Asia-Pacific         
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