Press Freedom in China Bulletin: July

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

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Read the traditional Chinese version here.

Read the simplified Chinese version here. 

In this bulletin:

1) <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">China</st1:place></st1:country-region> enacts new National Security Law, rejects IFJ submission

2) Chinese Authorities clamp down on stock market reporting

3) Journalists’ family prosecuted

4) Media blocked from reporting on “Dog Meat Festival”

5) Journalists and bloggers under attack

6) SAPPRFT restrain TV host

7) Media outlets start downsizing

8) Several media reports withhold information

9) Online media reports removed

1) <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">China</st1:place></st1:country-region> enacts new National Security Law, rejects IFJ submission

On July 1, the China’s National People’s Congress enacted the new National Security Law with immediate effect. The IFJ and its affiliates of Hong Kong Journalists Association, the Association of Taiwan Journalists, the Macau Journalists Association, along with the Independent Commentators Association delivered submissions regarding the law in early June and expressed strong concerns regarding the law, which is full of vague definitions, as well as a lack of adequate protection of press freedom, freedom of expression and access to information. The submissions called for more precise definitions be included in a number of clauses and that clauses regarding cultural freedom and access to information be removed. However none of the suggestion were accepted and the law was passed with minimal amendment.  

The law maintained clauses regarding Hong Kong, Macau and <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Taiwan</st1:place></st1:country-region>, stating that they should bear an obligation of maintaining the “national sovereignty and territorial integrity”. Read the submissions here and here

On July 7, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein expressed deep concern about the human rights implications of a new law. He said “This law raises many concerns due to its extraordinarily broad scope coupled with the vagueness of its terminology and definitions. As a result, it leaves the door wide open to further restrictions of the rights and freedoms of Chinese citizens, and to even tighter control of civil society by the Chinese authorities than there is already.”

2) Chinese Authorities clamp down on stock market reporting

On June 19, various monitoring authorities issued a series of directives to Mainland media outlets ordering them to curb their reporting of China’s stock market. The first directive, which was issued by the State Administrative Press Publication Radio Film and Television (SAPPRFT) demanded all media limit coverage of the stock market to prevent fluctuations in the market. The directive said that all reports should be balanced, objective and rational to guide the market, but were only to refer to information provided by the Chinese Securities Regulatory Commission.

Following the orders, three media reports were published that detailed suicides, which the reports said were because of money lost on the stock market. On July 4, the Chinese Securities Regulatory Commission immediately claimed those were ‘false’ reports and announced that they would partner with the police to investigate and clamp down on false reporting.  

3) Journalists’ family prosecuted  

On June 26, Shawket and Rehim, brothers of Radio Free Asia journalist Shohret Hoshur, were charged after been detained by authorities in August 2014. The brothers were charged with endangering state security and faced court on July 1.

Hoshur said that his two brothers were not politically active and worked on businesses in <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:city w:st="on">Urumqi</st1:city></st1:place>. He said that he believe his brothers were detained due to his work as a journalist and reporting on sensitive topics in Xinjiang.

4) Media blocked from reporting on “Dog Meat Festival”

On June 22, journalists from CNN, Hong Kong-based Apple Daily and other media were harassed by a group of people as they attempted to report on the ‘Dog Meat Festival’ in Yulin, Guangxi.  

According to reports, journalists were threatened while their cameras were blocked and damaged. One journalist from Apple Daily said that he was verbally abused and dog’s blood was thrown on them, as they tried to take pictures. When they continued one of the group said “I will smash your camera if you continue to take photos,” and forced the journalist to delete the images before he left.  Another journalist from CNN was also harassed and received similar threats.

5) Journalists and bloggers under attack

On June 1, Zhao Wen, an editor of Lanzhou Daily, was sacked by management, who said it was because of a post to his weibo accounts that was critical of local police. According to the notice from Lanzhou Daily, Zhang was suspended from his role on 28 May, following a decision by the Secretary of the Community Party. The secretary, who works for Lanzhou Daily, believed Zhang’s message could cause an adverse effect to society and hurt the feelings of the police. The newspaper management agreed with the decision of the secretary and said Zhang violated the company’s code of ethics but without specifying which regulations.

On June 5, Zhang Xiaohui, journalist with the Economic Observer, revealed that he was interrogated by police from Chongqing after he reported that staff of the Oriental Star cruise were suspected of destroying company documents. On early June 2, 456 passengers were on board the Oriental Star cruise when it sank on the Yangtze River, <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:city w:st="on">Jianli</st1:city>, <st1:state w:st="on">Hubei</st1:state></st1:place> Province. Following the incident, all media except Xinhua News Agency and China Central Television, were denied access to the scene. Many journalists who were denied access continued investigating the incident. According to social media reports, Zhang went to the office of Oriental Star cruise and found some staff destroying suspicious documents. However, all messages were deleted afterwards and Zhang refused to disclose further information under the instruction of his employer.   

On June 19, Liu Xinglian, an operator of a human rights website Rose Group in <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:state w:st="on">Hubei</st1:state></st1:place> province was formally charged of ‘inciting subversion of state power’. Liu’s daughter said that her father’s computer and two cell phones were confiscated by police when they raided her apartment and took Liu into custody. She believed the arrest was related to Liu’s work.   

On June 19, Chinese blogger, Wu Gan, was charged of three counts of crime including “picking quarrels and provoking troubles”, “defamation’ and “inciting of subversion of state power” after he protested in front of <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:state w:st="on">Jiangxi</st1:state></st1:place>’s high court building on 18 May. Since 18 May, Wu has been detained by local police and was punished for ten days of administrative detention. After the punishment, police continued detained Wu. On 1 July, Wu’s wife discovered two bank accounts were suspended by bank without knowing the reason. She said two bank accounts were used to accept donation to support Wu’s defence and his family expenses. 

On June 24, Yang Dongying, a volunteer for the website, June 4 Tianwang, was charged with picking quarrels and provoking troubles. Although there is no information about the cause of Yang’s arrest, Huang qi, an operator of website said seven volunteers including Yang were detained by local police with the aim of clamping down they disseminate information of rights protection.

On June 30, media reports stated that Liang Qinhui, an active blogger, was charged of inciting subversion of state power on May 4 after he posted messages on his microblog accounts including QQ and weibo. According to the charge sheet of People’s Procuratorate, Liang disseminated sensitive content and used critical comments. Liang also accessed and downloaded some critical articles about Communist Party through Free Gate, software used to circumvent the online firewalls.

6) SAPPRFT restrain TV host

On 22 June, State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television issued an order to all television media that they could not retain “guest host” for news and commentary programme with the effective date on 1 July. The order said role of programme presenter and guest should be distinguished. Before broadcasting , the programme should be censored as well as a re-run programme. Some commentators believed some dissenting voices maybe completely silence in the future after the order delivered.                 

7) Media outlets start downsizing

On June 18, the Central Propaganda Department, State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, and State Internet Information Office announced that state-owned media, including the offices of Xinhua and Central China Television would begin downsizing with the shutting down of offices and job cuts. The number of offices  would be reduced by 50 percent from 3160 to 1640 offices and 1435 jobs would be cut. The changes were the result of violated regulations.

On July 1, a metropolitan newspaper City Life, under Yunnan Provincial Federation of Disabled, announced the newspaper would shut down, citing financial difficulties. Although the notice did not express the size of the deficit, according to Caixin, staff have been arrears of salaries for four months which is equivalent to more than 4 million yuan (approximately USD 650,000)  

8) Several media reports withhold information

On June 18, Xinhua reported that the Hong Kong political reform was voted down by 28 of the 70 legislative councillors. However, the reports did not include details that the reform was only backed by 8 votes from the pro-government legislators with 38 members of the pro-government legislators walking out at the last minute.  The reform proposal was laid out by the National People Standing Committee on August 31 which outlined upholding the current Chief Executive Election system.

On June 22, at least 18 people were killed in a knife and bomb attack in Kashgar in Xinjiang. However no Mainland media reported on the incident.

9) Online media reports removed

In April, the State Internet Information Office announce new guidelines, ‘Provisions on the Interview of Entities Providing Internet News Information Services’, that would come into effect in June. All bureaus across China had strong criticisms of the guidelines, with many online outlets were either told to rectify to abide by the guidelines or shut down.

On June 3 and July 4, the State Internet Information Office regional bureau in Hunan announced that a total 15 websites would be forced to shut down citing the reason that they had illegally provided news that violated the “Administration of Internet News Information Services Provisions”.

On June 9, the State Internet Information Office’s website announced that over 200,000 online messages were deleted in line with the campaign to delete all paid posts online, that began earlier this year. In line with the campaign, 50 websites were forced to shut down.

On July 1, a Hong Kong-based Christian website, International Tin Lang Ministry, was hacked after Philip Woo the Chief Executive received a complaint notice from the State Adminstration for Religious Affairs in Shenzhen. The noticed alleged that the website had violated from several laws by disseminating information to Mainland members to participate in a Hong Kong leadership training.

On July 2, 28 websites were told to amend its content after they were ordered to attend a meeting with the regional State Internet Information Office. The meeting was the guise of discussing the ‘Provisions on the Interview of Entities Providing Internet News Information Services’ after saying that they wanted to make the website legal.

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