The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly criticises the censoring and removal of posts online relating to the proposed Constitutional amendment that was reported on February 25, 2018.
On Tuesday, Xinhua reported that the Communist Party of China Central Committee had proposed several amendments to the Constitution of China, including removing the point which states that the President and Vice-President of China ‘shall serve no more than two consecutive terms’. The amendments also included adding ‘Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era’.
Following the report, commentary began to circulate as many had suggested that President Xi would run for a third term in 2023; however none of these comments were published by any media outlets. One former journalist told the IFJ that traditional and online media only republished the Xinhua report, and that any negative comments about the news on social media were removed.
An article by Hong Kong-based Apple Daily that reported that Yuan Shikai, former Chinese Emperor during the Qing Dynasty, alluded that President Xi wanted to become a modern Emperor was removed from the website. On Weibo, comments sections below articles posted by state media outlets including Xinhua were disabled, with only comments by the People’s Daily account able to be viewed.
According to censor-monitoring websites China Digital Times and Free Weibo the Chinese censors went into overdrive, and any posts which used the words: I don’t agree, migration, re-election, election term, constitution amendment, constitution rules, proclaiming oneself as emperor and Winnie the Pooh; were delete. According to HKFP search results for ‘Yuan Shikai’ and ‘Winnie the Pooh’ were banned from being displayed on Weibo, ‘according to relevant laws, regulations and policies’.
Xinhua reported that the proposed Constitutional amendments will now be sent to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress for approval and then submitted to the National People’s Congress as early as March 2018.
The IFJ Asia Pacific Office said: “While the government continues to argue that this is an internal affairs and should not be discussed publically, the response from the government trying to control the flow of information contradicts the right to information for Chinese citizens enshrined in the Constitution. The fact that media across China seemingly republished the Xinhua report highlights the repressive environment that the country’s journalists are working in.”
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946
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