Press Freedom in China Bulletin: DECEMBER

Welcome to IFJ Asia-Pacific’s monthly Press Freedom in China Campaign e-bulletin. The next bulletin will be sent on January 8, 2018.

President Xi Jinping with the newly elected Politburo. Credit: WANG ZHAO/AFP

Welcome to IFJ Asia-Pacific’s monthly Press Freedom in China Campaign e-bulletin. The next bulletin will be sent on January 8, 2018.To contribute news or information, email [email protected]. To visit the IFJ’s China Campaign page, go to the IFJ media violations in China map here. Follow the IFJ on Facebook here. Follow the IFJ on Twitter here.Please distribute this bulletin widely among colleagues in the media.Download the simplified Chinese version hereDownload the traditional Chinese version here                                 In this bulletin:
  1. New media directives issued: how to report on Politburo
  2. Sensitive local issues removed from social media
  3. Chinese authorities withholding sensitive information
  4. Media denied access to key court hearings
  5. VOA journalists sacked following sensitive interview
  6. HK Govt refuse to answer questions on media
  7. HK Legislative Councillor’s ‘right to speak’ at stake
  8. Taiwanese pro-democracy activist barred entry to HK
  1. New media directives issued: how to report on Politburo
According to a People’s Daily report on November 24, new directives have been issued to state media regarding how they report on news about members of the Politburo of the Communist Party and members of the Politburo Standing Committee. The report said that the Politburo agreed on a list of eight points on October 24. The eight points refer to how to deal with the party’s affairs in the future. Among the eight points, was one which referred to the media, and that the new directive was based upon. The new directive however does not refer to President Xi Jinping, and Premier Li Keqiang.Following the National Congress in October, there was a wave of ‘promotional’ reports and articles about President Xi Jinping and his proposed ‘new era’. Huang Kunming, the new director of the Central Propaganda Department published an article which reiterate the tone of President Jinping’s speech, accusing Western countries using ‘core values’ to manipulate people to follow Western culture and give up Chinese culture.
  1. Sensitive local issues removed from social media
    1. Following a deadly fire on Daxing district in Beijing on November 18 not a single report has published about how residents were forced to vacate from their houses by the media. On November 18, a fire broke out in illegal houses and resulted in 19 deaths. Following the incident, the Beijing Party chief Cai Qi demanded that all people in the district be evicted within three days, which sparked a public outcry. A number of scholars and lawyers issued a joint statement against the evictions and demolition of the buildings, calling on action from the Beijing government. However the incident and joint statement were not reported on in the local media. Any articles on social media which referenced the fire or the victims were swiftly removed as they ‘violated’ the Interim Provisions on the Administration of the Development of Public Information Services Provided through Instant Messaging Tools, the first time that the Provisions have been used to remove content.
    1. After reports of child abuse at a Beijing kindergarten were made public, local police accused several bloggers of spreading rumours and deleted all relevant messages off social media. One of those accused of abuse was a member of the military, however this was immediately denied by the Army, through its ‘mouthpiece’ newspaper the People’s Liberation Army Daily. Police interrogated several accusers and placed one of them in administrative detention.
  1. Chinese authorities withholding sensitive information
Zhang Yang, a general in the Chinese Army, reportedly killed himself in his apartment on November 23. Xinhua were the first to publish the news, but did not publish it until November 28, five days later. Authorities did not explain the delay in the reporting. In the following days, the People’s Liberation Army Daily published several articles blaming Zhang, and the authorities held a press conference, further laying blame with Zhang. The press conference refused to answer critical questions regarding the delay in information.
  1. Media denied access to key court hearings
In November, the Changsha Intermediate People’s Court sentence Jiang Tianyong, human rights lawyer and Lee Ming-Che, a Taiwanese democracy activist, to two years and five years’ imprisonment, respectively. Although the state-owned China Central Television (CCTV) broadcast the two cases, all other independent journalists and media were banned from entering the court room. As a result, no other media reports deviated from the CCTV reports, including not reporting the responses from Jiang and Lee’s wives. The court used its official Weibo account to release information about how they had arranged a meeting opportunity for Jiang and Lee with their families. Jiang and Lee were convicted of ‘inciting of subversion of state power’ and ‘subverting state power’ relating to messages they had posted on social media.
  1. VOA journalists sacked following sensitive interview
On April 19, VOA livestreamed an interview with Chinese fugitive billionaire, Guo Wengui. The interview was originally scheduled to run for three hours, but the livestream was abruptly cut short, citing issues of ‘miscommunication’ for the disconnection. VOA strongly refused claims of self-censorship, however several media reports said that senior officials of the Foreign Ministry Affairs in China met with the Beijing Bureau Chief of VOA, and reportedly told VOA that the interview ‘interfered with China’s internal affairs’ and ‘interfered with the 19th National People’s Congress’. Following the interview, five VOA staff, Yang Chen, Bao Shen, Sasha Gong Xiaoxia, Dong Fang and Li Su were ordered to take administrative leave with pay until further notice.Last month, Yang Chen was the first staff members to be informed that his employment had been reinstated and he could resume duties. Earlier this month, senior editor, Bao Shen was allowed to resume his duties. However Sasha, Gong and Li were advised that their employment would be terminated as they violated certain regulations including disobeying management orders and not following journalistic practices. Sasha and Dong were the interviewers and Li was the technician during the interview.
  1. HK Govt refuse to answer questions on media
In early November, HK Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, endorsed the people’s ‘right to know’ during an appearance at a local school activity. However, she did not honour the promise when the media asked questions about which section of Hong Kong’s constitution, Basic Law, justifies her administration giving up Hong Kong’s autonomy to Mainland China as part of the future high-speed rail link to Guangzhou. Legislative Councillor’s and media kept asking the Government questions about the plan, including why the HK Government has approved a Mainland security check point on HK territory. However not a single Government officer or Carrie Lam answered any of the questions.
  1. HK Legislative Councillor’s ‘right to speak’ at stake
The Hong Kong Legislative Council’s ‘right to speech’ is facing a serious challenge as they start to debate changes to the rules of procedures in the council on December 6. The proposed changes, by the pro-Beijing camp, are aimed at curb ‘filibustering’ by democrats, as they have wasted time in the past. The pro-democracy camp are against the changes, as they deprive the rights of legislators. The pro-Beijing camp has been accused of taking advantage of the fact that there are less ‘pro-democracy’ legislators after four were disqualified.The pro-democracy legislators said that they are concerned that this tactic to pass legislation will continue to be used on more contentious legislation, such as National Security legislation slated for debate in the near future.
  1. Taiwanese pro-democracy activist barred entry to HK
Chang Tieh-Chih from Taiwan, and the former chief editor of a Hong Kong lifestyle and culture magazine, was barred entry to Hong Kong on December 6 because his travel document had expired. Chang wrote on Facebook that he had demanded a landing visa application at Hong Kong airport, however the application was denied. He suspected that it was denied because he had filed information incorrectly, but did not elaborate.IFJ[email protected]