China Press Freedom Bulletin: March

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In this bulletin:

1)            No-reporting topics listed online

2)            Tibetan writer sentenced to three years

3)            New restrictions for foreign media remain vague

4)            President Xi Jinping media tour criticised

5)            Editor of Southern Metropolis Newspaper was sacked

6)            Cyber Space Office delete messages and shut down online accounts

7)            Letter calling for President’s resignation goes live

8)            Televised confessions continue

9)            Hong Kong journalists were attacked two days in a row

10)          HK Government repeatedly bans online media

1)      No-reporting topics listed online

On March 6, a list of 21 restrictive topics was anonymously posted on the internet, outlining key areas which cannot be reported on, or which angle to take in reporting on specific topics. Among the restrictive topics included, positively reporting on the Chinese President’s speech following the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference; reporting China has a stable economy; no reporting on a controversial Buddhist who attended the Political Conference; and no reporting on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, among others. The restrictive topics included a number of controversial issues that continue to be raised by international groups.

2)      Tibetan writer sentenced to three years

On February 17, Druklo, pen name Shokjang, was reported that he had sentenced to three years imprisonment by the Intermediate Court in Tongren of Huangnan in Qinghai after he has been detaining for ten months. According to Radio Free Asia report, Druklo wrote several articles and a few of them had disclosed the increased presence of armed security forces in Rebkong area, and the conditions of schools in Gangcha county in Haibei. Rebkong and Haibei are Tibetan Autonomous area in Qinghai province. The local government accused him incited discord of nationalities in the region and was maintained a secret contact with so-called separatist who was accused of wanting to separate Tibet from China. Druklo was also accused of conducting and instigating divisive activities but no further of information was reviewed from the report.

3)      New restrictions for foreign media remain vague

In February, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology released new regulations, Online Publication Service Management Regulations, for foreign companies and joint-ventures regarding online publishing. However the regulations, which will be implemented on March 10 remain ambiguous. According to rule 10, sino-foreign joint ventures, sino-foreign cooperative ventures and foreign businesses shall not engage in online publishing services. If these organisations wish to publish, they must seek prior approval from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT). However the regulations do not outline the approval process. Under Rule 24, no online information is allowed to “harm national unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity, disclose state secrets, endanger social morality or national cultural tradition.” In addition, Rule 34 says that all online publications have to keep all online data, including IP addresses for 60 days in order to provide to authorities in the case of investigations. Punishment for not doing so will not exceed 30,000 yuan (5000 USD) and bans from working in any online media for at least one year.  

4)      President Xi Jinping media tour criticised

On February 19, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the headquarters of three leading state media organisations, including CCTV. During the media tour, Xi demanded the media be loyal to the government, the state and the party. He went on to say that media’s ‘surname’ was party, commenting on the loyalty of the media, also stating that the media must speak for the Party’s will and protect its authority and unity. His comments received widespread criticism. A prominent blogger, Ren Zhiqiang, a communist and successful businessman posted a series of messages on his Weibo and Sina accounts criticising the media tour, and noting that the media should speak for the public not the Party. Following the messages, a series of  critical articles were public by state and party-owned media. His Sina and Weibo accounts were shut down.

5)      Editor of Southern Metropolis Newspaper was sacked

On February 23, three journalists from Southern Metropolis Newspaper were punished after the cover story from paper’s February 20 Shenzhen editions published a veiled criticism of President Xi. The February 20 edition published a paired banner, the top headline was about President Xi calling for state media loyalty, and the second banner, placed underneath, referred to the sea burial of a prominent reformist. The combination of the headlines, when read the last two words of the two headlines was a criticism of Xi’s media policy. Three days later, an internal notice was issued by the management which sacked Liu Yuxia, editor of the Southern Metropolis Newspaper, had reprimand Ren Tianyang, Editor-in-Chief and Wang Haijun, Deputy Editor-in-Chief. The management accused Liu committed “a serious lack of political sensitivity in a malicious way”. According to the Initium Media, Liu said she “definitely had no such intention.”

6)      Cyber Space Office delete messages and shut down online accounts

On February 26, the Cyber Space Office said that in cooperation with other departments, including the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology Burearu, that more than 100 websites were shut down and more 2000 online rumours about public policy, transport and food security were deleted. In addition more than 580 social media accounts were shut down on accusations they violated from online service regulations, seriously damaging public interest. Among the 580 accounts shut down, three of the accounts were named and accused on repeatedly disseminating fake information about politics and public affairs. At least 7 bloggers were named, including media workers, accused on repeatedly posting against the principles of the Chinese Constitution.

7)      Letter calling for President’s resignation goes live

On March 4, an open letter asking President Xi Jinping’s resignation was published online, on, an online state-media. However it was quickly taken down. The online media outlet issued a statement saying that its computer system was hacked which saw the letter posted online. The letter was written by a so-called “loyal communist party member”. It was originally published by, a US-based pro-democracy website, on 3 March.  The letter criticized Xi for monopolising his powers and making wrong decisions.

8)      Televised confessions continue

a)      On February 25, Wenzhou Television, a state owned media, aired a televised confession from Christian human rights lawyer, Zhang Kai, who had been detained by a local police since since August 25, 2015. In the news report, Zhang said he had violated from Chinese laws including disrupting social order and endangering China’s national security. Zhang was accused of providing legal support and being a ‘mastermind’ behind the number of ‘ illegal religious gatherings’ in Wenzhou. Since 2014, numerous of church in Wenzhou were facing demolition and removing the cross from the church by a new crackdown campaign implemented by the local government.  During the campaign, it was reported that at least 20 churches were demolished and at least 1300 cross symbols were removed from the church. At least 60 churches people were either received administrative detention or criminally prosecuted.  

b)      Four of the media workers from Hong Kong Causeway Bay Bookstore and Mighty Current Publishers were organized to make an apology and statement in front of state controlled media. On February 29, Phoenix TV, aired an exclusive interviews of Lee Bo, who went missing from Hong Kong in December, said he hoped that people would stop voicing concerns about his sudden disappearance and he had returned to China on his own accord. In addition, Lee said that he had relinquished his UK residency, saying: “I always see myself as a Hongkonger and Chinese. Neither I nor my wife want to become a political tool. I hope those people will stop making a big deal out of this.” Three other media workers, including Lui Bo, general manager, Cheung Ji-ping, business manager and Lam Wing-Kei also appeared in The Paper, an online Shanghai online media outlet. They admitted that they had ‘illegally operated businesses’ in Mainland. On March 4, Hong Kong police department reported that Liu Bo has arrived Hong Kong and Cheung Ji-ping arrived in Hong Kong on 6 March. The pair demanded Hong Kong police department to cancel their “missing people” complaints, which were made by their family members. However nobody has a chance to verify the information.

9)      Hong Kong journalists were attacked two days in a row

On February 8, the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, several Hong Kong photographers, cameraman and journalists were attacked by protesters and Hong Kong police. The media workers were reporting on riots that had broken out in Mong Kok. The media workers from Cable TV, TVB, RTHK, E Weekly, Ming Pao and Next Media Group and were attacked with bricks and broken bottles. On another occasson, a photographer from Ming Pao was kicked and beaten by several police officers after he was ordered off a bus for safety reasons. Other media workers produced their media cards however they were ignored. On February 9, Wong Wai-Man, a journalist from HK01, was reportedly attacked by several people when he was trying to report on a clash between hawkers and security guards at Leung King Estate, Yuen Mun. According to HK01, the journalist was blocked entry to the disputed scene. When the journalist disclosed his identity, he was surrounded and attacked.

10)   HK Government repeatedly bans online media

On February 28, the constituency by-election for the Hong Kong Legislative Council New Territories East was held in the Tiu Keng Leng Sports Centre. A number of online media outlets including Stand News, InMedia, Initium Media, Kinliu as well as a number of student newspapers were barred entry to the center as the government does not recognize them as traditional media. This is not the first instance of media being barred from official or government events. The IFJ and the HKJA have strongly criticized the government’s position on new media, with the government arguing that such a change is position and policy would open the floodgates, allowing any media to participate in formal government events. In the past, not a single online media outlet was allowed to participate in any official government events, press conference with the Chief Executive, nor are they able to apply for an official press accreditation card to the Legislative Council. On January 13, online media was not allowed to participate in the press conference of Policy Address.   

IFJ Asia-Pacific

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