Asia-Pacific Journalists Question China's New Media Rules

Mr Hu Jintao

President of the People’s Republic

of China


Mr Wen Jiabao

Premier of the State Council of the

People’s Republic of China


Mr Sheng Guangzu

Minister of General Administration

of Customs of the PRC


Mr Gao Siren

Director of Liaison Office of the

Central People's Government in HKSAR


Mr Liao Hui

Director of Hong Kong and Macao Affairs of the

State Council


Mr Tian Congming

Chairman of All-China Journalists



Re: Concerns About Media Rules Raised at IFJ Regional Meeting, Hong Kong


Dear Sirs,


We, the leaders

and representatives of journalists’ associations and trade unions in the

Asia-Pacific region meeting in Hong Kong on 12-13 February 2009, call on China’s Government

to uphold press freedom and revoke newly implemented rules for Hong Kong, Macau

and foreign journalists reporting on the Mainland.


In particular, we are concerned

about new rules regarding press cards, the prior consent of potential Mainland

interviewees and the imposition of a hefty “guarantee” on professional media

equipment to be taken to the Mainland.


In the period leading up to and

around the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, the Central Government relaxed its

prior requirement that journalists in Hong Kong and Macau

seek the permission of the Central Government to travel to the Mainland for

journalistic work. Under the special Games regulations (Article 6),

non-Mainland journalists need only obtain oral consent from interviewees at the

time of an interview.


However, we are informed that on February

6, the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office announced that

journalists and media workers based in Hong Kong and Macau

must apply for temporary press cards with the Central Government’s Liaison

Offices before they would be permitted to travel to the Mainland for

journalistic work. The new rule requires journalists to obtain advance consent

from interviewees and to submit evidence of consent with the Liaison



These changes are a reversion to

pre-Games regulations, and place hardship not only on journalists but also on

potential interviewees.


We are deeply concerned about this

reversion and remind the Central Government that several individuals who

consented to be interviewed by journalists around the time of the Olympic Games

were harassed by local officials. Some interviewees were subsequently jailed.


We are further dismayed to learn of

another new rule of the Customs Bureau, which requires that all foreign

journalists and their media organizations must pay a guarantee, in cash or

cheque via a tax agent, in order to take into the Mainland the equipment they

need in order to properly conduct their profession.


This rule has not been announced

publicly although we are informed it became effective on December 25. We are

informed only that the new rule requires journalists and media workers to

provide a guarantee of an amount equivalent to the taxable value of their

professional equipment. No information has been made available on what

constitutes a “guarantee document” and media organizations have received no

information about how the amount of a guarantee is to be calculated.


Yet the need for this guarantee was

cited by Customs officers when they refused to permit a cameraman for

Belgium-based VRT Nieuws television station to take professional equipment onto

the Mainland on January 8, despite his papers being in order. Mr Tom Van de

Weghe, a VRT Nieuws journalist, informs us that his organization was asked to

pay almost 22,000 yuen cash – almost a half of the value of the equipment – and

that authorities said a “tax agent” must be retained to handle the matter.


Few media outlets can pay such a

large amount of cash at sudden notice. In the case of VRT Nieuws, Mr Dieter was

unable to do his job.


We are deeply concerned about the

implications of this rule and the opaque manner in which it appears to have

been introduced, with no consultation or notification to the press and media



Furthermore, we are concerned that

the Central Propaganda Department has continued to impose restrictions on

Mainland media. In various examples, mainland media have not been permitted to

report on the aftermath of the 2008 Sichuan

earthquake, pirate attacks on the Chinese Marine Force off Somalia, and

the ways in which various municipal governments have tried to boost their local

economies in the context of the global financial crisis. Instead, they can only

report such events if they use materials from state-owned news agencies, thus

limiting sources of information accessible to the public.


The above restrictions clearly

violate Article 35 of China’s Constitution, which upholds the right to freedom

of expression.


We therefore draw your attention to

our concerns about China’s

introduction and application of new rules for Mainland and non-Mainland media

seeking to conduct their professional work in China. These rules are contrary to

the spirit of openness pronounced by China’s Central Government and

authorities in the period before and during the Beijing Olympic Games. If

pursued, these new rules will reverse the positive steps made by China during

the Games, by re-imposing archaic restrictions on the media.


As such, we call on China’s Central

Government and authorities to:


i) Maintain all media freedoms that were in practice before and

during the Olympic Games, especially applying to non-Mainland media.
ii) Proceed to lift all restrictions on Mainland media.
iii) Revoke the requirement that Hong Kong and Macau

journalists provide authorities with information about potential interviewees

on the Mainland.
iv) Revoke the requirement for the provision of financial

guarantees on media professionals seeking to take their equipment to the

Mainland in order to conduct their work; or
v) Failing such revocation, post publicly the requirements for

such guarantees, and explain why such guarantees are necessary; and
vi) Consult in an open manner with Mainland and non-Mainland

media about the Government’s concerns and requirements for reporting in China.


We look forward to engaging in a

constructive dialogue with you in seeking a positive solution to these matters.


Yours Sincerely,



Signed by leaders of the following

organisations, in Hong Kong for the regional meeting of IFJ Asia-Pacific,

February 12-13, 2009:


Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI)


All India Newspaper Employees

Federation (AINEF)


Association of Taiwan

Journalists (ATJ)


Cambodian Association for Protection

of Journalists (CAPJ)


Engineering, Printing and

Manufacturing Union, New Zealand (EPMU)


Federation of Media Employee’s Trade

Unions (FMETU)


Free Media Movement (FMM)


Federation of Nepali Journalists



Hong Kong Journalists Association



IFJ Asia-Pacific


Indian Journalists Union



Journalists’ Association of Korea (AJK)


National Union of Journalists, Malaysia (NUJM)


Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA)



Rorem, Japan


Nepal Press Union



National Union of Journalists (India) (NUJI)


National Union of Journalists, Nepal (NUJN)


National Union of Journalists of the




Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association





UNI Global Union


United Confederation of Mongolian

Journalists (CMJ)