World Press Freedom Day in Greater China



May 3 is

World Press Freedom Day, a day which reminds the world of people’s rights to

hold opinions, and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas and

thoughts as stated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


The media has

an important role in this regard, as they hold a duty to disseminate information

of great public concern to society.


However, the

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) continues to receive many complaints

from media all over greater

China Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and

Mainland China that they

have been subject to

various kinds of pressure which impede the fulfilling of this duty.





Many Mainland

Chinese journalists complain that the present working environment for

journalists is much worse than during last year’s crackdown following calls for

a ‘Chinese Jasmine Revolution’.   


2012 has been

witness to tightening of restriction on China’s traditional and online media. China’s

microblogs have implemented real-name registration, which deters people’s

willingness to freely express their opinion. In addition, many Mainland Chinese

websites have been forced to close.


According to

a report in British newspaper The

Guardian, at least six people, including finance journalist Li Delin, weredetainedby police for alleged dissemination of rumours of a coup on April 1.

During the same period, two popular microblog service companies, Sina and

Tencent had their comment functions suspended for three days. The accounts of four

bloggers Yang Haipeng, Zhang Ming, He Bing

and Shen Yafei (account name Shi Feike) were

also shut down by Sina without any notification or explanation. Posts

addressing issues of great public concern also continue to be frequently deleted

from microblogs.


For traditional

media, the system of censorship remains unchanged. Newspapers report that they

continuously receive various restrictive orders from government authorities,

identifying which issues cannot be reported or which editorial perspective must

be used.


In 2012 so

far, restrictive orders have been issued by China’s Central Propaganda

Department advising media organisations not to publish reports or commentary on

the election of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, the series of self-immolation of

Tibetan monks in Sichuan, the illegal house arrest of blind activistChen

Guangchengand his wife Yuan Waijing, and Chen’s subsequent escape, and

the unfolding political scandal of Bo

Xilai, former Party Secretary of Chongqing City. Two journalists, Chu Zhaoxin and Wang

Sijing, were reportedly interrogated by police because Chu had covered the Bo

Xilai scandal.  Orders have also been received

regulating the number of articles published on certain topics or incidents.


The threat of

physical harm or intimidation continues to be a presence in the day-to-day work

of journalists in Mainland China.


Tao Xingying

of Xinmin Evening Post and Shen Kunyu

of Oriental Sports Daily were

physically assaulted by Guo Jun, the Secretary of the Dalian Football Club in

Dalian City, in China’s north-east Liaoning province, on April 21. Tao’s was choked

and kicked while being pushed to the ground by Guo. Although Guo apologised a

few days later and China’s General Administration of Sport affirmed that

journalists should be protected from such attacks when they are exercising

their duties, similar violent and humiliating incidents continue to pose a

challenge to the work of journalists in China.


Journalists also

continue to live under threat of punishment for exercising their duties. Luo

Xiaoming, Yang Shengdong and Shu Gangbin, senior managers of Biancheng Evening News, weresuspendedfrom their duties by the propaganda department of

Huaihua, a

prefecture-level city of Hunan Province in south central China, after the paper

published the results of a survey in which residents expressed dissatisfaction

with local officials.


Conditions for foreign journalists working in China are also becoming

more difficult. The movements of foreign journalists are quite limited,

particularly within Tibet, Tibetan-populated areas in Sichuan and Xinjiang, and

even some areas that do not require special entry permits. The challenges of

securing visas continues to frustrate the work of foreign journalists in China,

with the threat of delays or rejections being used to intimidate and threaten

journalists perceived as reporting negatively.



general public also continues to be restricted from enjoying its right to freedom

of expression. A number of protestors, including activist Wu Guanhuang, were

either detained or charged by police while taking pictures in a public area in

Guangzhou, Guangdong Province in April 2012. Chinese writer Yang Weidong and

Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser were also prevented from leaving China by Beijing’s



Hong Kong


It is a well-accepted

idea that freedom of expression is one of the pillars of individual rights. It

is therefore in the interests of all that societies should take action to

ensure the existence of a free, pluralistic and independent media. However, these

rights are undermined in Hong Kong by the exercising of self-censorship by the



During the 2012

election campaign for the new Chief Executive of Hong Kong, reports suggested

that Hao Tiechuan, the Director of the Chinese Liaison Office in Hong Kong -

Mainland Central Government’s formal representative in the territory - had

interfered with the reporting of the elections. The owner of the Hong Kong Economic Journal, Richard Li

Rzar-Kai, was allegedly approached by Hao, who left a message to chastise the

newspaper for its perceived negative coverage of the Chinese Liaison Office and

Leung Chun-Ying, the new Chief Executive. Although Li has denied of receiving

such calls, senior management of other media outlets have complained that they were

pressured to receive calls or dine with Hao when sensitive news related to him

or Central Authority arose.    



newspaper, Sing Pao,altered an article by a well-known

commentator, Johnny YS Lau, from refusing to support any of the Chief Executive

candidates to endorsing one of the candidates. Lau’s contract was subsequently terminated

on April 12, without explanation after he wrote an article paying tribute to the

late renowned dissident and astro-physicist Feng Lizhi on April 9, 2012. Sing Pao’s website was blocked for

Mainland Chinese readers on April 9, and it is alleged that an order was given

that Lau’s contract be terminated shortly afterwards. The newspaper has

continued to self-censor, with a column about blind activist Chen Guangcheng

removed from its official website on April 30.


In addition

to media exercising self-censorship, the ability of Hong Kong’s media to cover

news is also limited by government departments. The Police and Fire Departments

of Hong Kong have been tightly controlling the dissemination of information to the

media since the introduction of changes to their communication systems. The Police

Department have even begun to increase their control over the movement of the

media by establishing ‘media zones’ outside of the Chinese Liaison Office, the official representative body of the Central

Authority of China, in

Hong Kong. On numerous occasions, photographers have been prevented from taking

photos outside of this area and during demonstrations. Poon Ching-Ki, a photographer for

the Hong Kong Economic Times, was

pushed and detained by a policeman while taking photos of a public protest on during the

Chief Executive Election debate on March

19, 2012


Freedom of expression also continues to be tightly controlled. Some of

Hong Kong’s District Council legislators and firefighters have reported that

they have been prevented from hanging posters critical of government policy or

advocating for changes to working conditions outside their housing estates and

fire stations. Apparently, such posters were tolerated prior to the recent

elections of the new Chief Executive.




In Macau, the

practice of media self-censorship has drawn an outcry from both the public and

media personnel.


The Associação dos

Jornalistas de Macauissued

an open letter on April 26, and encouraged journalists to wear black T-shirts

to work on May 1 to lament the worsening state of press freedom in Macau.


In the open

letter, the journalists complained of the deletion or alteration of articles

that provided dissenting opinions from official government views. Other

complaints included pressure to under-report the public consultations on

political reform, the forcing of independent journalists from the workplace and

the restriction of journalists’ movement by police. Ava Chan, newly

resigned from Macau’s public broadcaster, Teledifusão de Macau S.A., has

commented that self-censorship was already common practice in Macau’s media industry

but lately the situation has worsened. Many sensitive stories on topics such as

political reform are refused publication by senior staff, or assigned to

inexperienced graduates or interns. Felix Wong Chi-Keung, a photographer for

the South China Morning Post, was refused

entry to Macao on May 1, for the third time since 2009, with the excuse that he

was a risk to social stability. Macau’s reducing press freedoms have also drawn

attention from other media association such as the Macau Media Club.          


For Macau’s

general public the rights to freedom of expression were also limited. For

example, an activist was hand-cuffed and detained by police when he refused to

put on a coat to obscure his T-shirt, which called for redress for the victims

of the Tiananmen Square massacre, during a public consultation session

conducted by the local government.




For the Media in Taiwan, one the greatest challenges continues to be the

threat of criminal defamation charges. Since Lin Chau-yi, former Chairperson of

the Taiwan Journalists Association and a reporter for independent news website

Newtalk, and Su Jeng-ping, the website’s administrator, were sued for criminal

defamation by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Hsieh Guo-liang in

relation to an article they published on September 2, 2011, many media

personnel, media academics and civil society activists have expressed their

concern that Taiwan’s out-dated criminal defamation laws jeopardise press

freedom. However, so far the Government of Taiwan has not given merit to their



The increased monopolization of media ownership is another threat to media

diversity in Taiwan. Want Want China Broadband, a subsidiary of the Want Want

Group, already owns several newspapers, magazines and terrestrial and satellite

television stations in Taiwan. It is now seeking permission from Taiwan’s

National Communications Commission to purchase an additional 11 cable

television companies for TWD 76 billion (approximately USD 2.6 billion). This

would allow the company to secure 23 per cent of Taiwan’s market of cable

subscribers. The purchase would enable the company to control one-third of

Taiwan’s media market.


The pursuit of revenue at the expense of independence has also become a

feature of the Taiwanese media sector. Increasingly, media rely upon paid

advertorials for their content, rather than maintaining an independent

editorial position.      




World Press

Freedom Day, May 3, is a date to celebrate the fundamental principles of press

freedom to evaluate press freedom around

the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay

tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their



In the spirit

of World Press Freedom Day, the IFJ urges China’s President Hu Jintao and Premier

Wen Jiabao, President of the Republic of China Ma Ying-jeou, Chief Executive of

Hong Kong Donald Tsang Yam-Kuen and Chief Executive–Elect Leung Chun-ying, and Chief

Executive of Macau Fernando Chui Sai-On to do their utmost to ensure all levels

of government respect the right of the media rights to do their job without

fear of intimidation or interference. We call on them to respect the rights of all

citizens to the freedom of expression enshrined in their constitutions and

domestic laws.    


The IFJ also

calls on all media personnel to remain strong in the defence of press freedom. All

media are reminded of their duty to serve the interests of society as a whole,

rather than merely government authorities or commercial sectors.



further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0950 



IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries


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