Press Freedom in China Bulletin: SEPTEMBER

Following Typhoon Hato that hit Macau on on August 22 - several media workers from Hong Kong were denied entry to Macau to cover the aftermath. Credit: Anthony Wallace/AFP

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1.    Restrictions implemented as 19th National Communist Party Congress nears

2.    UK publication forced offline by Chinese government

3.    Academic articles taken offline after government pressure

4.    Foreign journalists blocked from reporting

5.    Prominent human rights lawyer gives televised confession

6.    Police detained farmer for expressing opinion

7.    HK government criticise foreign media

8.    SCMP columnist resigns after article removed

9.    BBC broadcast stopped, replaces with China’s state radio station

10. Macau government pressures local and HK media


1.    Restrictions implemented as 19th National Communist Party Congress nears

On August 31, the Communist Party of China announced that the 19th National Congress will be held in Beijing on October 18, 2017. In the lead up to the Congress, restrictions have been implemented by relevant authorities, restricting freedom of speech, freedom of movement and association and other basic human rights. According to Xinhua several foreign media outlets including AFP, AP, Asahi Simbun, Bloomberg and TASS have been invited to cover the Congress.

The IFJ has documented the crackdown across China:

a.    China Central Television (CCTV) aired a series of programs which focused on President Xi Jinping’s idea of ‘deepening China’s reform’. The programs were broadcasted after Liu Yunshan, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee said that “we should do a good advertising job in welcoming the 19th Congress” on April 10 during a meeting with heads of regional Propaganda Departments.

b.    According to the Global Times, the Communist Party issued a notice to all party members that they must avoid any religious activities online, particularly any activities that support religious extremism, separatism and terrorism.

c.    According to Radio Free Asia, all local community associations have already received notices from the local governments which remind them that they should prevent “any activities or events that will seriously affect the political stability” before the Congress. The notice said that terror attacks, group protests, protest groups going to Beijing, criminal acts, individual extreme and violent events, group suicide and traffic events were all to be prevented. The notice also threatened the associations with criminal prosecution if they fail to do so.

d.    According to Sing Pao, a popular website Zhihu, has created a Communist Party sub-committee. The purpose of the sub-committee has not been confirmed, but the role usually involves monitoring and implementing all Party directives.  

e.    The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) released a new set of guidelines, stating that all internet users must use their real names to register before posting comments to news feed services. The guidelines also said that website service providers must censor all information that is posted on the website. Any information posted related to splitting the unification of China, dissemination false information and rumours, or referring to overthrowing Socialism should be immediately deleted. 

f.     The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) and four other bureaus and departments released a notice including 14 rules for media. The notice demanded that all media outlets, traditional and new, must allocate prime time slots to air documents that ‘eulogise’ the national and national heroes. Media outlets can only broadcast films which have already been granted a license by SAPPRFT.

g.    Additionally, SAPPFRT issued new rules for new media, which outlined the standards for traditional media, which are the same for new media. All new media is forbidden from outsourcing, renting or transferring editorial work. News that broadcasts obscenities, gambling, and violence, violates social morals or violates national laws is prohibited.

h.    According to the Jiefang Daily, Zhuang Deshui, a deputy director of the Research Centre for Government Integrity-Building at Peking University, states that internet companies play a significant role in China’s public voice and information dissemination. Zhuang believes that all internet companies should have sub-committees to monitor all ‘voices’ online.

i.      According to the Global Times, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) of the Communist Party released a report which said that several universities including Zhejiang University have established ‘party committee teacher departments’. It also disclosed that Tsignhua University will build a teacher development centre, which will guide new teachers, as well as organise workshops for teachers, focusing on Maxist theory and University culture.

j.      Following the announcement by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology that all companies could not used unregistered VPN services, non-registered VPN companies have faced a serious crackdown. At least 28 companies have already filed lawsuits against Apple for breaching the Antitrust Regulations. In August, Whatsapp, experienced several disruptions to its services, which are the first of its kind.

k.    Ma Lurong, a blogger from Yunnan was sentenced to five days administration detention after been accused of posting critical messages of the Communist Party and President.

l.      Zhu Delong, a former lecturer at Beijing Normal University was placed on five days of administration detention after he criticised President Jinping, promoted personal worship and critical opinions.

m.  Wu Minglang, 49, with the penname ‘Langzi’ was detained in Guangzhou after been accused on been involved in an ‘illegal business activity’. Reports alleged that Wu’s house was also raided by police. Following his detention, Wu’s publisher was also detained by police on allegations of ‘illegal business activity’.

n.    Zhen Jianghua, the executive editor of, which provides tools, skills and news about the Great Firewall of China, and a representative of Human Rights Campaign in China (HRC China) was detained by Gunagdong police. Police also raided Zhen’s apartment and took his computer, phone and documents relating to HRC China. On 2 September, police issued a notice accused Zhen for incitement to subvert state power

o.    A teacher from Shaanxi province was placed in administration detention for five days after he was accused on posting a message querying why local civil servants have to donate 200 Yuan.

p.    Deng Jiewei, a young businessman was sentenced to nine months in jail and fined yuan 5,000 (USD 765). Deng was accused on selling VPNs from 2015-2016.

q.    The CAC announced in mid-August that Tencent, Sina and Baidu had breached Cyber Security Law because the websites contained violent materials, pornography and information that was against social security.

r.     According to China Daily, three news portals –, NetEase and Phoenix – were each fined and suspended for one week for carrying pornographic content.

s.    The Cyberspace Administrative Office in Zhejiang and Hainan alleged that several websites including were selling illegal VPNs and computing systems, tools, as well as incorrect and vulgar information.

t.     On August 8, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Jiushaigou in Sichuan Province. At least 20 people were killed and over 400 inujured. Several journalists, including Hong Kong-based Now TV reported that they were blocked from reporting by local police. According to the China Digital Times, the Central Propaganda Department that all media reports should be in line with reports released by state-owned Xiahua. The order also prohibited the use of images and footage.

u.    Liu Xia, the wife of Liu Xiaobo, returned to her Beijing apartment, where it remains unclear if she is still under house arrest. In early September, video recordings of Liu surfaced proving the theory that she is still under house arrest.

v.    Yang Tianshui, a writer and the founder of the banned Democratic Party of China is currently serving 12 years in prison for the subversion of state power. According to Radio Free Asia he has been diagnosed with a brain tumour. To date his request for medical parole has been approved. No Mainland media have reported on his case.

w.   According to the Hong Kong-based Hong Kong Economic Times report, a number of retired military officials protested across the nation in August, although the protests were not reported in Mainland media. 

2.    UK publication forced offline by Chinese government

The China Quarterly, a publication from the Cambridge University Press (CUP) was forced to take 315 articles offline by Chinese authorities. In mid-August, the CUP editor revealed that it been facing continuous pressure from Chinese authorities for the removal of over 300 articles, some dating back to 1960. Additionally, thousands of e-books were also blocked. The international academic community immediately condemned the blocks and saw a 1000-strong petition been sent to the government.

On August 20, CUP decided it would republish all of the deleted articles. The Chinese government is yet to respond, but the Global Times reported that the initial pressure to remove the articles was to maintain China’s sovereignty.

3.    Academic articles taken offline after government pressure

Following the CUP incident, on August 23, the editors of the Journal of Asian Studies confirmed that Chinese authorities had formed them to remove around 100 articles. At the same time, LexusNexis, a provider of legal regulatory and business information confirmed that it is a subsidiary company in Mainland China. They also revealed that its subsidiary company in Mainland China, LexisNexis Business Insight Solutions, had received a notice from Chinese authorities ordering Nexis and LexisNexis Academic to be removed from the product list by March 2018.

4.    Foreign journalists blocked from reporting

a.    On August 14, police obstructed and detained Voice of America (VOA) reporter Ye Bin, as he was attempting the cover the closed trial of human rights activist Wu Gan outside Tianjin No. 1Intermediate People’s Court. Ye tweeted that non-uniformed officers surrounded him and his assistant, holding their arms for 20 minutes, preventing the pair from taking photographs. Police then accused Ye of inciting violence outside the court. He was detained in custody for four hours, where they were forced to delete all photographs and Ye’s computer was confiscated.

b.    According to the Globe and Mail, a Canadian-based media, Nathan VanderKlippe, the Beijing correspondent was detained by police in Kashgar, Xinjiang. VanderKlippe was detained for three hours, without reason. His bag and camera were also searched without reason. After he was released, his was followed back to his hotel by a police car.

5.    Prominent human rights lawyer gives televised confession

On August 22, Jiang Tianyong, a human rights lawyer, pleaded guilty to ‘incitement to subvert state power’ charges in the Intermediate People’s Court in Changsa, Hunan Province. Jiang’s confession was aired by CCTV, however it was immediately denounced by Jiang’s wife, who is currently in exile in America.

Jiang’s wife, Jin Bianling, said that the confession was scripted, “the entire proceedings was a script that was shot, edited and directed by (the authorities)”.

6.    Police detained farmer for expressing opinion

The Beijing News reported on August 20, that a farmer from Hebei Province was placed in administration detention, after he posted a comment online. His comment questioned the price and quality of the meal service in a canteen at a local hospital. He was detained as police said his message caused social instability. Mainland media reported the case, which went viral online.

7.    HK government criticise foreign media

On August 17, three pro-democracy student leaders, Joshua Wong Chi-Fund, Nathan Law Kwun-Chung and Alex Chow Yong-Kang were sentenced to six to eight months in jail for storming the government headquarters compound at Tamar during the Occupy Movement in 2014.

The sentences were immediately criticised, with many saying that the Hong Kong Judiciary had lost its independence and was now influenced by the Mainland government.

Reuters reported that an anonymous senior government official said that the Hong Kong’s top prosecutor has initially ‘not recommended pursuing’ the case further, but that Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen Kowk-keung had overruled the decision and insisted on appealing the case in the Appeal Court.

The New York Times suggested that the trio be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Department of Justice issued a statement on the criticism, noting that “such accusations are groundless, they overlook the objective evidence available in the present case. Hong Kong’s judicial independence cannot be questioned.” Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of Hong Kong said that the allegations are “totally unfounded”.

8.    SCMP columnist resigns after article removed

In late July, a column was removed from the South China Morning Post without notice. The column linked China’s President to a Singaporan investor. The SCMP claimed that the article did not meet the standards for publication because it includes multiple unverified insinuations. Media were immediately suspicious of the move by SCMP.

Initially, the columnist, Shirley Yam, the former HKJA vice chairperson did not comment. However, in late August, Yam resigned from her role without reason.

Many believe that resignation was due to been subjected to she opposed self-censorship.

9.    BBC broadcast stopped, replaces with China’s state radio station

On September 1, the Hong Kong Radio Television, the HK state media, ended continuous broadcast of BBC’s World Service. The broadcast ended after 40 years of continuous transmission, and was replaced with broadcasting China’s state radio channel.

RTHK said that the move was because the local government would stop digital audio broadcasting in September, and therefore they had to reshuffle the schedule. RTHK also said that the change was an opportunity to “enhance the cultural exchange between the Mainland and Hong Kong”.

10. Macau government pressures local and HK media

Following Typhoon Hato, at least five journalists and photographers from Apple Daily, HK01 and South China Morning Post were denied entry to Macau in separate incidents. They were told that they were denied entry as they “might have posted threat to internal security”.

On August 27, Ma Lo-Kun, the Commissioner of the Public Security Police in Macau claimed that the ban was in accordance with the law. Wong Sio-Chak, the Secretary for Security also defended the ban, noting that “other regions had also banned entry and that Macau was not an exception”.

On August 29, the Journalists Association of Macau disclosed that the local government was trying to orchestrate the media in Macau, and telling them how to report in the aftermath of the storm. At least five media outlets had received directives, telling them to report ‘positively’ and not to ‘chase the government in particular the top leader on the responsibility of this havoc’. It is also reported that at least one media outlet censored reports following the directives. The Journalists Association of Macau was angered by the directives and believed the government was ‘distorting the ethics of professional journalists’.

IFJ Asia-Pacific

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