IFJ Press Freedom in China Campaign Bulletin: October 2014

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

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In this bulletin:

1.    Hong Kong Occupy Movement suffers crackdown

2.    Armed man attacks three staff at Hong Kong Cable Television

3.    Xinjiang Government delays reporting on another brutal attack

4.    Two more senior managers of 21st Century Business Herald arrested

5.    Vice publisher detained for “provoking trouble”

6.    Uyghur scholar IIham Tohti sentenced to life imprisonment

7.    Online media told to destroy records of restrictive orders

8.    Messages on Sina Weibo deleted in less than an hour

9.    Journalists prevented from covering press freedom defender trial

10.  Senior former journalist charged with provoking trouble

11.  Liberal journal forced to change supervisor

12.  FCCC survey: Not one member says working conditions better than a year ago

1. Hong Kong Occupy Movement suffers crackdown

The Occupy Movement action in Hong Kong began in the early hours of September 28 after several leaders of the Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism were arrested by Hong Kong police on allegations that they had broken in to the public area of the Hong Kong Government Headquarters Complex. Riot police used batons, pepper spray and 87 tear gas grenades against Occupy Movement protestors and students. Media workers seemed to become targets and several journalists were injured when Anti-Occupy Movement demonstrators tried to evict Occupy Movement protestors from various protest zones.

a.    On September 27 and 28, a number of journalists suffered brutal treatment by police. They represented media outlets including Hong Kong-based Hong Kong Asia Television, Digital Broadcasting Corporation, Hong Kong-based Apple Daily, Hong Kong-based online publisher InMedia and representatives of the IFJ. Some were hit by police batons, jostled and manhandled, and many were caught in clouds of tear gas and pepper spray when they were trying to report on the demonstrations.

b.    Police attempted to check journalists’ press cards when they were trying to take photos of the protests near the “restricted area”. Police gave “media rubbish” as a reason to refuse to allow a journalist from Post852.com, an new independent online media outlet, to enter the restricted area after he presented his press card.

c.    According to Google Transparency Data, there was a drastic drop in internet access over the night of September 27. On September 28, Radio Television of Hong Kong reported that police planned to block all communication networks covering the junction of the Admiralty and Wanchai areas, where the first tear gas was fired and where the protests had spread. Many journalists found it increasingly difficult to access the internet or make phone calls. This affected the sharing of news, as many television units struggled to transmit their signals back to their stations.

d.    On October 3 and 4, thousands of Anti-Occupy Movement protestors and local residents used force to evict Occupy Movement protestors. This action sparked off a serious of scuffles at Mong Kok, Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui and Admiralty. At least 13 incidents occurred, and journalists from Radio Television of Hong Kong (RTHK), Apple Daily, Ming Pao, South China Morning Post and U Magazine were injured. Two serious incidents occurred on October 4. Mak, a journalist with RTHK, was punched by a man several times. He said: “I cried out that I was a journalist but the man ignored me and punched me again.” At the time of the incident, Mak had shown his press card and put on a press jacket. His left eye and nose were bruised. Tsui, another journalist of RTHK, called out that he was a journalist but he was hit on his waist by a plain clothes police officer with a baton At that moment, he was wearing a press jacket, displaying his press card and holding a microphone with the RTHK logo.

e.    Foreign journalists from BBC and German newspaper Die Zeit were harassed by police in Beijing when they tried to report on the Occupy Movement in Hong Kong. On October 3, Beijing policemen refused to allow Celia Hatton of the BBC to enter Song Zhuang, an “art village” on the outskirts of the city, on the grounds that “villagers don’t accept foreigners”. A group of people who claimed they were residents of the compound told her: “We don’t like foreigners.” When she insisted on entering the area, police accused her of “obstructing police in their duties” and confiscated her press card. On October 2, a journalist for Die Zeit was taken away by Beijing police on grounds related to her identity card. It is widely believed by activists that the journalist was obstructed because she had interviewed a poet about the Occupy Movement in Hong Kong a day earlier.

f.     Many Mainland activists, artists and poets were detained by police across the China. According to various overseas reports, they were taken away because they expressed their support for the Occupy Movement in Hong Kong.

g.    Anonymous Asia, a hacker collective, admitted that they launched a massive DDoS cyber-attack on the Hong Kong Government, and pro-establishment political parties and groups in Hong Kong in order to express their outrage at the Hong Kong police’s action in firing tear gas grenades at protestors on September 28. The Hong Kong Government, Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, Wenwei Post and other groups were targeted in the attacks.

h.    The People’s Daily, Chinese Communist Party newspaper, published a series of articles criticizing the Occupy Movement starting on October 1. State-owned China Central Television and Xinhua news agency broadcast and published similar reports.

i.      Microblog service Sina weibo deleted all articles or images of the Occupy Movement in Hong Kong. Numerous rumours were disseminated by word of mouth and cell phones in Hong Kong during the event.

2. Armed man attacks three staff at Hong Kong Cable Television

On September 22, a 19-year-old man armed with two knives entered the building of Cable Television of Hong Kong at Tsuen Wan in the New Territories and attacked three people including a security guard and a cameraman from the news department. According to Hong Kong police, the alleged attacker wanted to meet a person from Cable TV to discuss his service contract with the company. When the security officer refused to let him into the building, the suspect slashed the guard. According to a report on Cable TV, the security guard’s head and hand were hurt, and the cameraman’s head was hit once by the suspect when he tried to intervene to stop the attack. The attacker was arrested and charged by police.

3. Xinjiang Government delays reporting on another brutal attack

On the night of September 25, Tianshan website, which is controlled by the Xinjiang government, reported that a series of bomb explosions occurred four days earlier on September 21. This was the second time that the Government deliberately delayed reporting to the public after a serious attack. The incident killed 50 people and injured 54. According to Global Times, the explosions occurred in several locations in Xinjiang around 5pm on Sunday, September 21. The locations included a shop in Luntai county and two police stations in the townships of Yangxia and Terakbazar. Global Times did not report on the cause of the incidents.

4. Two more senior managers of 21st Century Business Herald arrested

On September 25, two more managers of 21st Century Business Herald were arrested. Editor-in-chief, Shen Hao, and general manager, Chen Dongyang, were taken from their offices by Shanghai police. According to a report in Hong Kong-based Ming Pao newspaper, the editorial department in Beijing was searched by at the same time as the managers were detained. The report did not say whether police had a search warrant. On September 3, eight employees working on the 21st Century Business Herald website, including editor-in-chief Liu Dong, deputy editor-in-chief Zhou Bin, were detained by police in Shanghai for allegedly cooperating with two public relations agencies to blackmail companies with threats of negative reports. On September 11, the Central Propaganda Department ordered that media should not use other sources of information, and should only republish Xinhua’s report about the incident. The order said that news reports must support the polices action and be accompanied by an editorial condemning the incident.

5. Vice publisher detained for “provoking trouble”

Cao Baoyin, managing vice publisher of a branch of Central Compilation and Translation Press, was taken away by Nanjing police on September 23. A human rights lawyer said in his blog that he received a message from Cao’s wife that Beijing police accused Cao of picking quarrels and provoking trouble but gave no evidence to back up the allegations. Police also ransacked Cao’s house. Cao is a former commentator with the New Beijing Newspaper.

6. Uyghur scholar IIham Tohti sentenced to life imprisonment

Ilham Tohti, a well-known Uyghur scholar from the Nationalism University in Beijing, was sentenced to life imprisonment on September 23 after being convicted of “separatism” charges including hatred and forming an anti-government organization. Ilham’s defence lawyers, Liu Xiaoyuna and Li Fangping, later said the trial did not follow due process. The authorities refused to allow defence lawyers to read all the relevant documents on the grounds that they were “too sensitive”. Two days after the trial, Ilham Tohti's “separatist” videos were released by state-owned news agency Xinhua. In the video, Tohti tells his students in the classroom that Xinjiang originally belonged to the Uyghurs. The authorities said making this claim violated the Constitution. The authorities admitted that Tohti had the right to speak but emphasized that this right is not absolute.

7. Online media told to destroy records of restrictive orders

On September 11, the State Council Internet Office issued an order to all online media that they must destroy records of all its past restrictive orders before September 16. Radio Free Asia reported that the new order said media were not allowed to release the content of previous orders. The office said orders could only be read by certain management staffs and those staffs had to sign a confidentiality agreement. If any online portal did not sign the agreement, the site’s administrator or another responsible person would be punished.

8. Messages on Sina Weibo deleted in less than an hour

On September 30, several messages relating to very senior members of the Communist Party were deleted from microblog service Sina Weibo. Just a day before China’s National Day, Chinese President Xi Jinping, with members of the Politburo Standing Committee, paid tribute at the Monument to the People's Heroes in Tiananmen Square. The ceremony marked China’s first Martyrs’ Day. Bloggers posted queries about the ceremony on Sina Weibo, but they were deleted within an hour. A similar situation occurred when Jiang Zemin, former President of China, current President Xi and all members of the Politburo Standing Committee attended a concert to mark the 65th anniversary of the Communist Party’s rule of China on September 29. Several netizens posted messages with the title “Xi Jinping and Jiang Zemin attended the Concert marking 65th anniversary”, but they was deleted.

9. Journalists prevented from covering press freedom defender trial

On 12 September the media was refused permission to cover the criminal trial of journalists Guo Feixiong and Sun Desheng, who are fighting for good governance and freedom of the press in China. Guo, 48, whose real name is Yang Maodong, and Sun, 32, were taken into custody on August 8, 2013, and charged with gathering crowds to disturb public order in January 2013. Guo and Sun held up placards and gave speeches at a demonstration outside the headquarters of Southern Weekly after journalists disclosed that the New Year’s Day special editorial had been censored. They also campaigned for disclosure of government officials’ assets. When their case came up for a hearing, several representatives of overseas and Hong Kong media were denied entry to the court room in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, without explanation. Police also insisted on checking journalists’ press accreditation when they were waiting outside the court building.

10. Senior former journalist charged with provoking trouble

On September 13, Tie Liu, 81, former journalist, was detained by Beijing police on the accusation of “provoking trouble”. According to his wife, Ren Hengfang, Tie’s detention was likely because he had recently published an essay criticizing Liu Yunshan, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee who is in charge of all media control. Tie publicly accused Liu of suppressing press freedom.

11. Liberal journal forced to change supervisor

On September 15, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television ordered the Chinese National Academy of Arts to supervise Yanhuang Chunqiu, a liberal reformist monthly journal. This journal was originally supervised by Yan Huang Culture of China Association. Analysts, including the editor-in-chief of the journal, are deeply worried that the editorial direction will change in the future. The Chinese National Academy of Arts focuses purely on the arts.

12. FCCC survey: Not one member says working conditions better than a year ago

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China identified six main areas of concern in its position paper in September 2014. The areas were restrictive reporting conditions; interference with news assistants; interference with sources; denial of access to government information; denial of foreign media access to the Chinese market; and punitive immigration policies. The position paper reported on a survey carried out by the FCCC in May 2014. The survey found that 99 per cent of respondents did not think reporting conditions in China meet international standards, and 80 per cent felt conditions were the same or worse than the year before. Not one member said conditions had improved.

If you have information on a press freedom violation or matters relating to media freedom and journalists’ rights in China, contact staff at IFJ Asia-Pacific so that action can be taken. To contribute to this bulletin, email ifjchina@ifj-asia.org.

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