Press Freedom in China Campaign Bulletin: May

Welcome to IFJ Asia-Pacific’s monthly Press Freedom in China Campaign e-bulletin. The next monthly bulletin will be sent on June 8, 2015.

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For the simplified Chinese version click here. 

To contribute news or information, email ifj@ifj-asia.org or visit http://www.ifj.org/regions/asia-pacific/press-freedom-in-china/

In this bulletin:

1) IFJ launches campaign calling for release of veteran journalist Gao Yu

2) San Jin Metropolitan Daily journalists protest against withheld wages

3) Chinese government continues to ban media reporting on <st1:place w:st="on">Inner Mongolia</st1:place>

4) Tibetan writer arrested for disclosing information

5) State Council Information Office tightens controls on online ‘illegal content’

6) CCTV program host suspended for mocking Mao Zedong

7) <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:country-region w:st="on">Taiwan</st1:country-region></st1:place> media heavily censored online on the Mainland

8) <st1:place w:st="on">Hong Kong</st1:place> Government criticised for sidelining media in political reform discussion

9) TVB journalists and van attacked by protesters

10) Independent footage disclosed <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placename w:st="on">Macau</st1:placename> <st1:placetype w:st="on">University</st1:placetype></st1:place> lie

1) IFJ launches campaign calling for release of veteran journalist Gao Yu

The IFJ Asia Pacific and IFJ affiliates around the world have written to China’s president, Xi Jinping as well as China’s premier, Li Keqiang, calling for the immediate release of veteran journalist, Gao Yu. IFJ affiliates began their letter campaign in the lead-up to World Press Freedom Day, celebrated globally on May 3, to voice their criticism of the case and the sentence handed down to Gao Yu last month. Gao was arrested in April 2014, and in April 2015 she was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment for revealing a state secret.

The 71-year-old internationally acclaimed journalist was arrested in <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:city w:st="on">Beijing</st1:city></st1:place> on April 24, 2014, on charges of illegally obtaining state secrets and sharing them with foreign media. It understood that the leaked document outlined the leadership’s plans to aggressively curb civil society and press freedom. Gao was subsequently charged and held in detention until her trial in November, 2014. She has been imprisoned twice earlier during a career spanning over three decades.

Click here to read more and download a template to send your own letter to President Jinping calling for Gao Yu’s release.

2) San Jin Metropolitan Daily journalists protest against withheld wages

On April 2, more than 30 journalists from the San Jin Metropolitan Daily protested against changes to their job title and arrears of wages with one protester telling the IFJ that the title ‘journalist’ was suddenly removed from the newspaper, without any explanation from the company. Management of the newspaper, which is part of the Shanxi Media Group, asked the protesters to come inside and to settle the case following the protest. “We requested management to sign a contract promising to give us the same benefits as contractual journalists” said the protester. This was denied by management.

3) Government pressure implicated in <st1:place w:st="on">Inner Mongolia</st1:place> media censorship

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) criticized Mainland <st1:country-region w:st="on">China</st1:country-region>’s media for failing to report on a police crack-down against protesters in <st1:place w:st="on">Inner Mongolia</st1:place> on April 4. The IFJ has also drawn attention to the fact that people who accepted interviews about the incident from international media were subsequently punished by police and has drawn attention to the failure of authorities in reporting the incident actually occurred. A pattern of media self-censorship is noted around incidents that authorities might connect to ‘separatism’.

Hundreds of riot police were mobilized during the anti-pollution protest in Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region of <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">China</st1:place></st1:country-region>, and used rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas to disperse protesters. A number of protesters were injured during the action.

Following the protest, two of the protesters who agreed to do interviews with international media were later arrested by local police. One of the interviewees was detained for three days and the other faces 15 days imprisonment, yet neither have faced proper legal procedure. According to Radio Free Asia, police also threatened local villagers from accepting interviews with international media and censored content on WeChat, a Chinese communication tool. Following the incident, neither the local Naiman Banner government nor Mainland authorities reported the protest of the incidents.

4) Tibetan writer arrested for disclosing information

Tibetan writer Druklo (known under the pen name Shokjang) was arrested by the <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:state w:st="on">Qinghai</st1:state></st1:place> police for disclosing increased restrictions by the local government on his blog about the lead-up to the 7th anniversary of the 2008 Tibetan unrest. According to the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, Druklo disclosed that the police of <st1:placename w:st="on">Rebkong</st1:placename> <st1:placetype w:st="on">County</st1:placetype> (also known as <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placename w:st="on">Tongren</st1:placename> <st1:placetype w:st="on">County</st1:placetype></st1:place>) had increased street patrolling before the anniversary on March 14, 2008. However no mention of this was made when Druklo was arrested. In 2008, a series of riots and protests occurred in <st1:city w:st="on">Lhasa</st1:city>, the capital of <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Tibet</st1:place></st1:country-region>’s autonomous region. <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">China</st1:place></st1:country-region>’s Central Authority said the unrest was motivated by separatism and orchestrated by the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama denied the accusation and said instead said the situation was caused by wide discontent of the human rights situation in <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Tibet</st1:place></st1:country-region>. According to Xinhua, ten people died in the deadly riots but more casualties were reported killed according to foreign media reports.

5) State Council Information Office tightens controls on online ‘illegal content’

According to Chinese state-owned media Xinhua, the State Council Information Office has threatened to shut down online news service and US-listed company Sina. The office, which regulates <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">China</st1:place></st1:country-region>’s internet, announced on April 10 it had received 6038 complaints against Sina since the beginning of the year. Among the ‘complaints’ the office claimed that Sina reports ‘distorted facts, violated public morality and posted vulgar information’. The State Council Information Office said that Sina had violated the Regulation on Internet Information Service of China and the Administration of Internet News Information Services Provisions. However, it would not specify which regulations and provisions had been violated or what news reports had received the complaints. On April 28, the internet regulator announced a new system that demands website administrators must remove ‘illegal content’ within reasonable time after they received a direction from the office. It said if the administrators failed to do so they would be punished including fines and license cancellation.  

6) CCTV program host punished for mocking Mao Zedong

Bi Fujian, a prominent television program host of China Central Television (CCTV), was suspended from his show and other work for allegedly mocking the former chair of <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:country-region w:st="on">China</st1:country-region></st1:place>’s Communist Party, Mao Zedong, at a private dinner on April 2. During the dinner, Bi sang a cultural revolution era song which was filmed by an attendee, who then later posted the footage to the internet. After the film went viral on social media on April 6, <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:state w:st="on">Fujian</st1:state></st1:place> was suspended without any reason by CCTV management, with no definite time given on his return to work.

7) <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:country-region w:st="on">Taiwan</st1:country-region></st1:place> media heavily censored online on the Mainland

During April, <st1:country-region w:st="on">Taiwan</st1:country-region> media online portals including New Talk, <st1:city w:st="on">Liberty</st1:city> Times, Apple Daily and United Daily News were partially or almost entirely censored in <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">China</st1:place></st1:country-region> according to a recent survey. According to Taiwanese independent online media outlet, New Talk, the content of its portal was almost completely censored in Mainland <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:country-region w:st="on">China</st1:country-region></st1:place> on April 7. So too, 90 percent of the content from Liberty Times and Apple Daily were censored and United Daily has more than 60 percent of its content censored.

8) <st1:place w:st="on">Hong Kong</st1:place> Government criticised for sidelining media in political reform discussion

Transparency was a key issue of concern as the Hong Kong Government delivered its blueprint of Universal Suffrage 2017 to the general public in April. On April 22, Hong Kong’s chief executive, Leung Chun-Ying, and other politicians, went to the community to promote <st1:place w:st="on">Hong Kong</st1:place>’s moves on political reform following the announcement of the blueprint to the Legislative Council. However, the government failed to inform the media of this event drawing questions to the government’s intentions on public accountability. The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), an IFJ affiliate, strongly criticised the arrangement, saying it highlighted the government’s ongoing ignorance of the need for full disclosure and transparency around the blueprint’s discussion.

9) TVB journalists and van attacked by protesters

On April 27, Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) criticised the attacks on several journalists as well as the broadcast van of <st1:place w:st="on">Hong Kong</st1:place> broadcaster TVB. According to HKJA, TVB journalists were covering a protest outside the Mong Kok police station when a number of protesters became aggravated following the detainment of some protest group members. When the TVB van arrived to cover the protest incident, the group started attacking the van and verbal assaulting the journalists.

10) Independent footage discloses Macau University ‘privacy’ lie

Independent footage of the scene of a fire at <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placename w:st="on">Macau</st1:placename> <st1:placetype w:st="on">University</st1:placetype></st1:place> on April 23 has shown that university efforts to block reporting of the incident for privacy reasons were misleading.

According to All about Macau, a Macau-based independent media outlet, a journalist and crew member of MSTV Satellite TV Company, were blocked by unidentified people in the dormitory of <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placename w:st="on">Macau</st1:placename> <st1:placetype w:st="on">University</st1:placetype></st1:place> after they attempted to cover the fire. The camera light was also said to be damaged by one of the group. <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placename w:st="on">Macau</st1:placename> <st1:placetype w:st="on">University</st1:placetype></st1:place> explained the action was necessary as it had to protect students’ privacy as they were not dressed well during evacuation. But an independent film later revealed that all students were dressed well when they fled. The Macau Journalists Association (MJA) issued statements demanding a full investigation and explanation of the incident.   

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