The grassroots news organisation based in Hong Kong, Worker News, issued a post on the 28 February 2019, saying that mainland readers recently found its site to be inaccessible, and the Chinese internet censorship analyser GreatFire.org also showed the site to be blocked as of 1 March, HKFP reported.
“We can’t tell if this is a censorship official targeting us, or the algorithm blocked us because we hit too many keywords. But looking back at the sensitive incidents we reported over the past year… we can say this is an expected result,” the post reads. Last year, Worker News reported extensively on the plight of Shenzhen Jasic Technology workers, as well as other crackdowns on strikers and student activists.
IFJ noted that internet censorship is not new in China. According to a report of Radio Free Asia on 11 February 2019, Zhao Weidong, a Twitter user from the northern province of Shaanxi, was called in for questioning by police in the provincial capital Xi'an and fined after he forwarded a post to social media critical of the country's beleaguered authoritarian government. He was then issued with an administrative fine of 500 yuan on 29 January for retweeting "false information".
IFJ is concerned that internet censorship damages freedom of expression in China. Country authorities have the obligation to protect the Freedom of Expression, according to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which China has signed in 1998. While according to Principle 6 of Johannesburg Principles: National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, restriction on expression is prohibited unless (a) the expression is intended to incite imminent violence; (b) it is likely to incite such violence; or (c) there is a direct and immediate connection between the expression and the likelihood or occurrence of such violence.
IFJ urges the Chinese government to comply international human rights standards on freedom of expression when they are trying to play a more important role on the global platform; “Access to information is an important part of freedom of expression and the people in China should have the right to access any information they want. The judgement of whether the information is true or false should be done by the people, not by the authorities”.