Press Freedom in China Bulletin: JANUARY

Police walk past a missing photo of Gui Minhai in Hong Kong in 2015. Gui has disappeared against after officers detained him on a train outside Beijing. Credit: AFP/Anthony Wallace

Welcome to IFJ Asia-Pacific’s monthly Press Freedom in China Campaign e-bulletin. The next bulletin will be sent on February 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.Download the simplified Chinese version hereDownload the traditional Chinese version here                       Please distribute this bulletin widely among colleagues in the media.

1.    Two Korean photographers assaulted by Chinese guards

2.    Enforced disappearance of artist after video posted online

3.    Global Times erase Taiwan flag from photo

4.    Wang Huning demanded media promote Xi ideology

5.    New regulations for broadcasters

6.    History books delete contentious ‘facts’  

7.    Shanghai activists unable to open WeChat accounts

8.    Mainland AI content platform gives members of Communist Party priority

9.    Apple Inc transfer iCloud database to Chinese provincial government controlled company

10. Hong Kong media suspected of self-censored

11. Newest Justice Minister of Hong Kong deliberately delay answer her house illegal features


1)    Two Korean photographers assaulted by Chinese guards

Two Korean photographers, Koh Young-Kwon from Hankook IIbo and Lee Chung-Woo from Maeil Business News, were assaulted by several Chinese security guards on  December 14, as they were covering the official trip for Republic of Korea President Moon Jae-In at the China National Convention Center in Beijing, China. According to Korean News, Korea-based media, said Koh’s collar was grabbed by the guard and then pushed down on the floor and kicked him for several times. The pair had multiple injuries on their heads and back. During the scuffle, journalists presented their press accreditation but the guards and the Chinese officials ignored them.   

2)    Enforced disappearance of artist after video posted online

Hua Yong, an artist based in Songzhuang village, Beijing, reportedly disappeared on December 15, after he posted a video online of the mass eviction of migrant workers in Xinjiang village in Daxing, Beijing. Hua had documented the demolition of houses by local authorities over a period of three days, during which some workers were homeless in freezing temperatures. The videos were posted online and spread virally, attracting media reports and hundreds of messages online. All messages relating to the videos and the evictions were deleted and Mainland media tried to downplay the reports. On November 18, a first broke out in the village, killing 19 people. Cai QI, the Beijing Party chief, then ordered all people vacate their apartments and houses within three days, claiming they were illegal structures. The demand sparked a public outcry. Several scholars issued a statement condemning the government’s actions, but it was not reported in the media.

3)    Global Times erase Taiwan flag from photo

The Global Times, a sister outlet of the People’s Daily, erased the Taiwan flag from a photo when it was reporting on people celebrating New Year’s Eve in Kinmen country, Taiwan. In the photo, people crossed the road, in front of several Taiwanese flag, however they were erased from the photo.

4)Wang Huning demanded media promote Xi ideology

Wang Huning, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, has reportedly demanded that all media promote Xi’s new era ideology, and reminded them to promote the correct direction of politics and guide public opinion. The demand followed a notice issued by the Central Propaganda Department in early December, to all supervising arts departments to promote Xi’s ideology. The notice said that ‘people need arts, arts also needed socialism’.

5) New regulations for broadcasters

On January 6, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) issued a new set of regulations to all media that they have to apply for a pre-approval from the office if they are broadcasting international, military affairs, or entertainment programmes. At the same time, all programmes are forbidden to air any format if they have already received an official warning. The program subject person and the senior officer will be responsible if they have breach the new regulations.    

6) History books delete contentious ‘facts’  

According to Ming Pao, the newest Chinese history book for students deliberately changed the cause of Cultural Revolution of Mainland China. The change including deleting a ‘mistake’ of Mao Zedong, the first head of Chinese Communist Party and the cause of the Cultural Revolution which killed numerous of Chinese and destroyed valuable Chinese cultural and academic materials. The change drew a public outcry and was virally disseminated online. Subsequently, all the relevant information was completely deleted in WeChat.

7) Shanghai activists unable to open WeChat accounts

According to Xinhua, China has the largest number of netizens, with 750 million of the global 3.89 billion. Despite this, at least two Shanghai activists complained that they have been blocked from opening a WeChat account. One activist said that she opened four accounts but that none ‘survive’. She was told by an internet company that she was disseminating vicious rumours.

8) Mainland AI content platform gives members of Communist Party priority

Toutiao, a news and information content platform powered by artificial intelligence technology, was suspended by Cyber Administration for 24 hours at the end of December 2017 with the accusation of the platform disseminating ‘ vulgar’ news. After the punishment, the management of Toutiao posted a recruitment advertisement which specified members of Communist Party has the first priority to be retained as an editor in the early January 2018. On 8 January, Toutiao announced that the company will cooperate with Michigan University of U.S. to set up an anti-rumours research platform so that they could use artificial intelligence technology to compete rumours.

9) Apple transfer iCloud database to Chinese provincial government controlled company

Several Mainland media reported that Apple’s iCloud services in Mainland China will be operated by Guizhou Cloud Big Date, owned by Guizhou provincial government, by the end of February 2018. According to Ming Pao report, the new arrangement allowed the company free access to user accounts without any notice and they could delete messages and images which are deemed as ‘unacceptable’ information. Apple said the move was due to having to comply with Mainland regulations. In 2017, the Cyber Administration Office announced a new regulation which demanded all companies have to store all data in China.  

10) Hong Kong media suspected of self-censorship

HK01, a Hong Kong based media, alleged self-censored an article related to the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989. In the early time on 20 December, the media posted an investigative report about the number of casualties of Tiananmen Square Massacre in Beijing based on British Government revealed the classified documents. However the article was then immediately withdrawn for ten hours. In the late afternoon, similar article was posted in the website but all classified documents information were deleted. The article only left the comment and data provided by the Chinese side. On the following day, Hong Kong Journalists Association issued a statement revealed HK01 suspected of self-censored because the management stopped publishing the other article which was originally scheduled. HK01 denial and published several articles to justify the withdrawal of the first article. However a few of internal journalists told IFJ that they believed self-censored because it was not the first time happened. The source told IFJ that the previous self-censored incident was related to the All-in power of President Xi. The very senior management suddenly demanded them to remove “ All-in power of Xi “ wordings without telling them the reason.  

11) HK Justice Minister of Hong Kong deliberately delay answers about house

Teresa Cheng Yeuk-Wah, the newest justice minister of Hong Kong, and Buildings Department deliberately delay to answer media ‘s questions after media revealed Cheng’s home have illegal structures which violated from Building Ordinance. According to Ming Pao reports, journalists submitted questions to Cheng and the department for an explanation about the illegal structure since 27 December 2017. However they did not answer until the afternoon on 6 December, the second day Cheng became the justice minister of Hong Kong, Cheng only spent five minutes to make her apology for ‘ inconvenience caused’ over the structures in her home but she did not admit the structures were ‘ illegal’ and also refused to accept the media request to take photos inside her home.IFJ[email protected]