Chinese authorities censor “dialogue” between Hong Kong officials and protest leaders

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) criticises the Chinese Central Authorities for its heavy-handed suppression of news relating to political reform. Coverage of a “dialogue” between representatives of the Hong Kong Federation of Students and Hong Kong Government officials, as well as news of the death of a prominent activist, have been censored. The censorship occurred while the fourth plenary session of the 18th Central Committee of Communist Party in China was being held in Beijing. On October 21, the Hong Kong Government Chief Secretary, Carrie Lam, and four other senior government officials conducted a public dialogue with Alex Chow, secretary of Hong Kong Federation of Students, and four other members of the federation’s executive committee. The student-led Occupy Movement has remained deadlocked for more than three weeks, with protesters refusing to leave the protest zones in the streets of Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, broadcast of the dialogue remained uncensored, however over the border in Guangzhou, the government-controlled television station aired only the government official’s side of the discussions. Official news agency Xinhua and China Central Television, both of which are state-owned, reported the dialogue, yet they also only reported the arguments of the Hong Kong Government officials. All other media outlets merely republished the Xinhua report. In another example of censorship, Mainland media were completely banned from reporting that a prominent democracy activist, Chen Ziming, 62, had passed away in Beijing from pancreatic cancer. Chen had been a prominent figure in the fight for democracy in China since the early 1970s. In 1989, he was accused of being the prime mover of the student-led democracy movement that ended in the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Chen was jailed for 13 years and kept under surveillance after he released on medical grounds. Information about his death was banned from traditional media and popular social media platform WeChat. The IFJ Asia Pacific Office said: “The Central Government of China and Hong Kong Government should understand that censorship is despised by civilised societies, and that such actions cannot undermine the people’s craving for truth and real democracy.”

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