Press Freedom in China Bulletin: November

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

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In this bulletin:

1.    Detained journalist released on bail following televised confession

2.    IFJ launches annual #EndImpunity campaign

3.    China National Radio journalist attacked in Wuhu City

4.    IFJ and Amnesty International, Hong Kong hold media conference in Hong Kong

5.    Xinjiang Daily Editor-in-Chief fired

6.    IFJ makes submission to the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT)

7.    Mainland media withhold reports of diplomat deaths

8.    Australian journalist detained in Inner Mongolia

9.    Former journalist critically injured in brutal attack

10.  PEN America issues censorship guidelines

11.  Online campaign targeting teens launches

12.  Amendments to Chinese Criminal Law, include punishments for false information

13.  Court injunction halts media reporting on Hong Kong University

14.  HK photographer charged by Thailand Government

15.  Reports of death of government official withheld for hours

16.  ILO launches global media competition

1.    Detained journalist released on bail following televised confession 

Liu Wei, a deputy assignment editor of investigative news with the Southern Metropolis Daily was arrested on October <st1:chmetcnv unitname="in" sourcevalue="8" hasspace="True" negative="False" numbertype="1" tcsc="0" w:st="on">8 in</st1:chmetcnv> Jiangxi province. On October 31, Liu made a confession on China Central Television (CCTV). Liu was arrested by police after been suspected on obtaining a state secret, however further details have not been provided by authorities. On October 30, Xinhua reported that Liu was involved in the criminal case of spiritual leader Wang Lin who is on suspect in a murder case. In the report, Xinhua claim that Liu has an exclusive report regarding Wang, which Xinhua and CCTV allege was the result of his interactions with Wang’s wife, mistress and police officers involved in the case. One report allege that Liu had assisted Wang’s family obtain other people’s identity cards to get a new phone in order to hinder police who they believed were eaves dropping on their communications.

During the televised confession, Liu who was emotional, said: “I confessed I had committed a crime. Now my only wish is I can return to my family as soon as possible and start a new page of my life.”

In late October Liu was released on bail, however information regarding his charges remains withheld.

2.    IFJ launches annual #EndImpunity campaign

On November 2, the IFJ launched its annual #EndImpunity campaign on the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. The campaign launched on November 2, the UN International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, and will run until November 23, the 6th anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre in the Philippines. The 2015 campaign focuses on India, Pakistan and the Philippines, where government authorities have consistently failed to display a genuine commitment to ending impunity and bring perpetrators and masterminds to justice.

Week 1 of the campaign seeks to call the governments of India, Pakistan and the Philippines to account through a letter campaign, demanding action be taken to end impunity.Week 2 will feature the launch of Without a Trace: Media workers missing in the Asia-Pacific - an online resources of key cases of media workers who have disappeared and remain missing.Week 3 will focus on the Philippines which remains one of the world’s worst impunity havens for attacks against media workers, following the 2009 Ampatuan massacre and an ongoing, high levels of targeted killings annually. The IFJ campaign will also call on the governments of Cambodia, Nepal and Thailand to respond to the UNESCO Director-General’s report The Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity, which they have so far failed to do.

Visit the IFJ website to join the campaign here

3.    China National Radio journalist attacked in Wuhu City

On October 10, Liu Jun, a journalist with state-owned broadcaster, China National Radio, was attacked by a group of people in front of several police officers. The attack came after Liu reported on the aftermath of a gas explosion at a restaurant in Wuhu City in Anhui province. Liu filed a complaint to local police and they have opened an investigation. The explosion in Wuhu City killed 17 people, 14 of which were secondary school students from a local school. According to reports the restaurant had just recently opened but did not have an official license.

4.    IFJ and Amnesty International, Hong Kong hold media conference in Hong Kong

On 31 October, the IFJ Asia Pacific and Amnesty International, Hong Kong organised a one day conference on National Security, Cyber Security and Foreign NGOs, which was held at the Baptist University, Hong Kong. The conference was attended by local, Mainland, Taiwanese and Macau journalists, as well as a number of foreign correspondents to discuss what would be the impact to media and non-government organizations after the enactment of Chinese National Security Law, the Cyber Security Law Draft and Foreign Non-Governmental Organization Management Draft. Speakers said that the law could limit the freedom of the press from the traditional media to online media as well as the freedom of association. Speakers also drew attention to the vague definitions use in the legislation as an area of concern for press freedom and freedom of expression.

5.    Xinjiang Daily Editor-in-Chief fired

Zhao Xinwei, the former Communist Party secretary and the editor-in-chief of Xinjiang Daily is under investigation for suspect ‘serious disciplinary violations’. According to state media reports, Zhao made public comments that were contrary to major work plans and policy decisions issued by the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region Party Committee.

A number of Mainland journalists said they have never seen a report from Xinjiang Daily which deviates from the party line before. According to a BBC report, Ma Sen, director of the Law Department at the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said any member who acts against the Party not only "seriously disturbs people's thoughts" but also hinders the implementation of the central authorities' guidelines and policies.

On October 26, the Communist Party of China Central Committee issued newly-revised rules for disciplinary penalties. The newly-revised rules aim to play a more pre-emptive role in preventing misconducts by Party members. Meanwhile, Zhao Guo-ming, former Party secretary of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region's Poverty Relief Office, was also placed under investigation for "serious disciplinary violations".

6.    IFJ makes submission to the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT)

On October 28, the IFJ issued a submission to the UN CAT as they prepare to review the CAT 2008 report on China and torture. The IFJ submission drew attention to the issues surrounding detained journalist Gao Yu and her health issues, as well as highlighting the continued and increasing use of televised confessions and the conflicts surrounding those.

The IFJ urged the Committee to ask for an explanation from the official representatives of China and deploy a special rapporteur to conduct an investigation. 

7.    Mainland media withhold reports of diplomat deaths

On October 20, Song Rongjua, the consul general at China’s consulate in Cebu, the deputy consul, Sun Shen and finance officer, Li Hui, were all shot while eating lunch at a local restaurant. Sun and Li were killed in the attack after been shot in the neck. Song remains in hospital recovering from a bullet wound to the neck. Song, Sun and Li were dining with six other people at Lighthouse restaurant, a popular local spot for politicians to celebrate Song’s birthday. According to reports, a man and a woman, identified at Li Qing Li and Guo Jing, entered the private dining room and opened fire. Later they were detained at the Chinese Consular Office, where they worked alongside the victims.

Although the incident received widespread reporting in international and Philippine media, Mainland media downplayed the incident. Numerous online reports of the incident were immediately deleted, with one mainland journalist noting that: “some content is deleted because it relates to foreign affairs, so the media has to follow the tone of the authorities.”

8.    Australian journalist detained in Inner Mongolia

Philip Wen, a journalist with the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia, was detained for over three hours in Inner Mongolia on October 13. Wen was trying to interview Bao Zhouxuan, the son of Human Rights lawyer Wang Yu when he was detained by local authorities. During his detention, Wen was interrogated by  police, who repeatedly asked him to reveal his sources and contacts, Wen said both his phone and camera have not been searched by the police. This is the not the first time Wen has been detained by police.

According to various foreign media reports, Bao fleed to Myanmar with the assistance of a number of US-based Chinese human rights lawyers. He was caught in Myanmar and his passport was confiscated when he was deported back to China. Since July , Wang Yu and her husband have been detained by Beijing police on accusations of ‘inciting subversion of state power’. 

  1. Former journalist critically injured in brutal attack

According to various media report, Yang Yanfang, the editor-in-chief of Big Elephant Think Tank, a Henan-based think tank which focusing on public opinion and big data, was attacked by four people outside his office building on October 13. After the attack Yang underwent a medical examination which discovered cerebral hemorrhage and skull fractures and he was placed in an induced coma. According to thepaper.cn, an online media outlet in Shanghai, Liu Shuzhi, Yang’s wife said she doesn’t know why he was attacked and Yang had not mentioned any threats to his life.

Numerous online media reports speculated that the attack was related to Yang’s 2012 report which revealed that Zhai Zhenfeng, the Head of Land Resource and Housing Administrative Bureau in Henan, accepted a bribe. After trial in December 2014, Zhai was convicted and sentence to imprisonment for 25 years. But police denied the reports but withheld all information and reasons of the attack. 

10.  PEN America issues censorship guidelines

PEN America have issued a set of guidelines for writers on how to prevent censorship from happening during the translation process of books when given to Chinese publishers. PEN said that 12 US publishers have signed the PEN American pledge to monitor and address incidents of censorship in Chinese translations of books by foreign authors. The pledge affirms a commitment to assess whether any book for which the publisher controls Chinese publication rights includes political or historical content known to be censored in China, and to work with authors and trusted Chinese editors to minimize excisions and changes in the translation.

The report Censorship and Conscience: Foreign Authors and the Challenge of Chinese Censorship, issued by PEN America, revealed that many Western authors, agents, and publishers have not paid close attention to what happens to their books when published in China, to the point where many are not even aware that they have been censored. In response, PEN compiled a new set of guidelines for foreign authors and agents considering publishing in China on how to negotiate proposed cuts or changes with Chinese publishers and how to vet the final translation to identify any unauthorized changes.

11.  Online campaign targeting teens launched

In March 2015, Chinese authorities announced that in order to protect the teenage population from been influence by pornography, violence, radical ideas, supersistitious ideas and other information, they would launch a national ‘anti-pornography campaign’. The People’s Daily reported on October 19, that authorities had confiscated 518,000 publications due to harmful or illegal information. Over 1 million ‘harmful’ messages were removed from the internet and 24,000 websites were shut down.

On 22 Oct, the Cyber Administration Office announced that the office received over 3 million complaints, relating to internet content in September, which is an increase of 34.4% from August.  Among those cases, over 30% of complaints related to pornographic material and only 3.2% related to violent information.

12.  Amendments to Chinese Criminal Law, include punishments for false information

On November 1, the Chinese Criminal Law amendments came into effect across China, which now means people who fabricate news reports relating to disasters, epidemics or security alerts and releasing on the internet would be punished with prison time. The maximum penalty under the amendment is seven years in jail as noted in Article 291 of the law.

The new amendment also means that internet service providers (ISP) are now liable if they do not perform information network security management duties. These duties include monitoring information transmitting through the ISP. The maximum punishment is now three years in jail.

13.  Court injunction halts media reporting on Hong Kong University

On 30 October, Hong Kong University (HKU) filed a temporary injunction order to the High Court of Hong Kong to forbid all media and “persons unknown” to publish or report confidential information about the HKU Council’s meetings. In the released information, the temporary injunction order also barred any media and persons to identify any HKU members including Council members, staff and students.

The injunction was immediately criticized by local media organisations and journalist unions. The Hong Kong Journalists Association, Hong Kong Press Photographers Association, Ming Pao Staff Association, Next Media Trade Union and Radio Television of Hong Kong Programme Staff Union have issued a joint statement to question the action, stating that they believe it sets up a daunting precedent for further press freedom restrictions in the future. On November 6 the Hong Kong Journalists Association applied to the court to become a party of the hearing in order to defend press freedom of Hong Kong.

14.  HK photographer charged by Thailand Government

On August 23, Anthony Kwan Hok-Chun, a Hong Kong-Canadian photojournalist, was arrested at Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok as he was about to board his flight to Hong Kong. Kwan, who was in Thailand for Initium Media Technology, a new Hong Kong-based online media company covering the aftermath of the Erawan Shrine explosion, was arrested under the Thai Arms Control Act for carrying an illegal weapon, which was a bullet-proof vest. Initial reports said that he would be tried in a military court, however this was quickly changed and he faced a civilian court near Suvarnabhumi airport and was released on bail. On 12 October, Thai Government formally charged Kwan of illegally possession military weapon.  

15.  Reports of death of government official withheld for hours

Lai Man Wa, the director-general of the Customs Service in Macau was reportedly found dead in a public toilet in Ocean Gardens in Taipa, Macau on October 31. However the news of her death was withheld for a number of hours. Police were initially informed of the death at 3.30pm, however Lai’s death was not announced by the chief executive of Macau, Chui Sai On until 7.30pm.

Local media queries the Security Departments delay in releasing the information, however the Secretary of Security denied any delay. A local journalist said “Actually there is no written pledge provided by the department that how long they should reveal information to the press after an accident happen. Other than Lai’s case, police often reveal a very simplify information to media when an accident happen. Based on those information , media actually unable to understand what exactly it was but not a single word was revealed by the department in Lai’s death.” Media suspected a delay of reveal information was due to Lai is one of the top Government officials in Macau. Macau Journalists Association issued a statement to criticize the local Government.

16.  ILO launches global media competition

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has launched Reporting Fairly on Labour Migration, a global media competition in collaboration with the ITUC, IOE and OHCHR. More details of the competition can be found at: www.ilo.org/fairmigrationcompetition Submissions are during on December 1, 2015 and winners will be announced on International Migrants Day, December 18, 2015.

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