IFJ Denounces Detention of Hong Kong Journalists in China

The International

Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has been notified of another incident in which provincial

authorities in China

have ignored the promises of the Central Government to allow local and foreign

journalists more freedom in their reporting.


Four Hong Kong journalists were

detained by government officials in Dujiangyan, Sichuan Province, on May 7 while they researched a story on

corruption related to the 2008 Sichuan

earthquake, local reports said.


The journalists, who were on assignment

for the Ming Pao newspaper and the Hong

Kong-based Hong Kong Cable Television station, told the IFJ they were prevented

from interviewing residents of Xiang’e village who allege their houses were

deliberately demolished by a developer after the quake.


The journalists were reportedly told

by a group of 10 government officials to stop the interviews, on the basis that

they did not have the appropriate permit from the Sichuan propaganda department. They were

then taken to a police station.


One journalist told the IFJ the

group was not allowed to contact the local propaganda department to obtain the

appropriate permit. They were forced to delete all footage taken and to sign a

letter of penitence before they were released.


Many of the interviewees were also

reportedly harassed by local police.


In February, two human rights

activists and writers, Huang Qi and Tan Zuoren, were sentenced to three years

and five years’ jail respectively, following their investigative work into the

collapse of school buildings during the quake and their demands for an official

investigation. Huang was accused of possessing state secrets while Tan was accused

of subversion of state power.


“Provincial permits are

administrative tools used by local authorities in China to prevent journalists from

doing their jobs properly,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan

White said.


“They also highlight the urgent need

for central authorities to ensure that their promises of an improved open media

are understood and acted on in provinces.”


In October 2008, Foreign Ministry

spokesman Liu Jianchao announced China would adopt a “basic policy

of opening up to the outside world, [and] protecting the lawful rights and

interests of foreign media” in accordance with promises made by the Central Government

in its bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games.