The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called on the Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China respect Article 35 of the Constitution of China and cease attempts to suppress people from expressing their opinions in the lead up to and during the upcoming National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing.
On February 26, Bao Tong, the former director of the office of Political Reform of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and political secretary of Zhao Ziyang, former Premier of China, was informed by national security agents that he was banned from accepting media interviews, posting articles on social media, and attending any group dinners until March 20, 2018, the date that the National People’s Congress and Consultative Conference ends. There are reports that there is a list of ‘sensitive’ people who have received similar orders to Bao.
Other people were also warned against accepting media interviews, while several bloggers have their social media accounts blocked. One citizen journalist told the IFJ that her Weibo account was shut down forever on February 27 after it was alleged that she was disseminating vicious rumours, violating Weibo’s regulations. She said that Weibo did not specify which rumours had violated their terms, or which terms she had breached. However her account was shut just 24 hours after she posted a joint letter from veteran journalists against the proposed changes to the Constitution announced days earlier.
Bao Tong and the citizen journalist had expressed concerns about the proposed amendments. Bao was against the removal of the ‘office term’ clause and in a number of Mainland interviews he repeated these sentiments, noting the negative impact long-term Presidents and Vice-Presidents can have, referencing the Cultural Revolution.
The National People’s Congress and the Chinese People Political Consultative Conference, annual meetings, will be held between March 3 and 20 in Beijing. The National Security Bureau, as is fast becoming the practice, has started censoring all negative messages on social media. On February 2, the Cyberspace Administration of China along with five departments kicked off a new campaign to supress ‘so-called gossip’ on microblogs and online games. Three microblogs were shut down due to focusing on entertainment gossip.
The IFJ Asia Pacific Office said: “Blocking and the flow of information and placing restrictions on people and their right to express their opinion is fast becoming the norm in China. Last year, we tracked an unprecedented number of violations by the Chinese Government in the lead up to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party, and it appears the Government is starting 2018 much the same. As an accountable and good government, the Chinese Government should be open to feedback and criticism, encouraging the Chinese people to discuss political developments."
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946
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