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IFJ Press Freedom in China Campaign Bulletin

IFJ Press Freedom in China Campaign Bulletin

November 8, 2012

To IFJ Asia-Pacific affiliates and friends,

Welcome to IFJ Asia-Pacific’s monthly Press Freedom in China Campaign e-bulletin. The next bulletin will be sent on December 8, 2012, and contributions are most welcome.

To contribute news or information, email To visit the IFJ’s China Campaign page, go to

Please distribute this bulletin widely among colleagues in the media.

1) Websites Blocked and Restrictive Orders Issued

2) Man sentenced to 8 years in prison, after posting message online

3) Man detained for seven days by police after allegedly leaking information on Bo Xilai

4) Charges against environmental writer, politically-motivated

5) Mainland reporting on Tibetan self-immolations stifled

6) Hong Kong citizens dissatisfied with the state of press freedom

7) Hong Kong journalist threatened

8) Allegations of Political influence in Hong Kong’s first digital radio station

9) Concerns for Media Diversity and Workers’ Rights in Taiwan

The 18th National Congress of the Communist Party begins today in Beijing, with the Party expected to undergo the most significant changes to its leadership in decades –via the handover of power.

Ahead of Congress, reports have surfaced that Liu Yunshan, the Director of Central Propaganda Department has already ordered that all media outlets scrutinize ‘unfavourable messages’. Liu Yunshan is also tipped to become one of the top leaders of the Central Committee. Unfortunately, the judiciary of China is showing signs of moving in the same direction.

1) Websites Blocked and Restrictive Orders Issued

On October 25, the Chinese authorities reportedly blocked The New York Times English and Chinese-language official websites in China, following the publication of an investigative report into the assets of Premier Wen Jiabo and his family. The report disclosed the extraordinary growth of the Wen family’s assets during his time in power, revealing that the family is worth at least USD $2.7 billion. Wen has denied having had any advantages whilst in power, and China’s Foreign Ministry said the story “blackens China’s name and has ulterior motives”.

Bloomberg’s official website remains shut down in China, following reports that the extended family of Xi Jinping – the man set to become China’s next president - expanded their business interests to include investments in companies with total assets of USD $376 million.

Restrictions on the reporting on the Bo Xilai scandal have been imposed since details of the case emerged in February. The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress’ suggestion on November 4, that all public duties of the former Chongqing party secretary should be terminated, was accepted by the Central Committee. Independent reports however, were prevented and only republications from official media were allowed.

On October 29, Chinese local media was also prevented from reporting independently on the week-long protests of thousands of citizens in Ningobo, a seaport city in the northeast of China’s Zhejiang province. A series of protests were held in Ningobo against an oil refinery and chemical plant as fears for the public’s health were raised. Associated Press journalists were prevented from taking photos of the protests by local authorities.

2) Man sentenced to 8 years in prison, after posting message online

An internet café worker was sentenced to eight years in prison after posting pro-democracy articles online. According to a November 1 BBC report, Cao Haibo, 27, was convicted of ‘subversion of state power’ in the Intermediate People’s Court in Kunming. His wife said the court had presented evidence that her husband had ”created an online discussion group and published articles on foreign websites”. The trial was held in May behind closed doors because the court claimed that the case involved state secrets.

3) Man detained for seven days by police after allegedly leaking information on Bo Xilai

According to a Chengdu newspaper report, a man named Mao was detained for seven days without charge, after he posted details about the former Chief police of Chongqing, Wang Lijun in relation to the Bo XiLai case. Mao reported that Wang travelled to Beijing in February, accompanied by national security officers, after he went to the US Consulate in the city of Chengdu. The information leaked by Mao rebuked the explanation given by the government of Chongqing that Wang was on vacation receiving therapeutic treatment.

4) Politically-motivated charges against writer

An active environmentalist, Liu Futang, 65, winner of the Best Citizen Journalist prize in Chinadialogue's 2012 China Environmental Press Awards, was charged on October 11, with carrying out illegal business activities in Longhua District Court in Haikou, Hainan. The prosecutor said Liu was using a Hong Kong book number to print books on environmental protection and giving them out in China without the approval of authorities. Other environmentalists and the general public however, believe the charge was politically motivated because Liu has publicly disclosed the issue of deforestation in Hainan.

Liu stated that prior to contacting a Hong Kong publisher, he had approached three Chinese publishers but all of them refused to publish his book, saying that the contents of the book were too sensitive.

Writers being charged with ‘illegal publication’ is quite a common occurrence in China. Xie Chaoping, faced similar charges two years ago in a case that drew nationwide attention. His book disclosed that building the Sanmen Dam in the 1950s resulted in mass evictions.

5) Mainland reporting on Tibetan self-immolations stifled

According to the figures provided by the Campaign for Tibet group, it is confirmed that sixty-three Tibetans have self-immolated since February 27, 2009. However, reporting on the incidents has been restricted and censored.

In October, a People’s Court of Sichuan sentenced four Tibetans to prison for between seven and eleven years, accusing them of by providing information about the self-immolation cases of Tibetans to people outside of China. By the end of October, Police in Gansu, a Tibetan populated area, were offering rewards of 50,000 Yuan, approximately US $8,300, for information on planned self-immolations.

6 ) Citizens of Hong Kong unsatisfied with state of press freedom

For the first time since the handover in 1997, a survey conducted by a Hong Kong University released on October 24, reveals that one in four people are dissatisfied with the state of press freedom in Hong Kong . Almost half of the 1,000 interviewees believed that local news media practiced self-censorship. Approximately 48 % of those interviewed also believed that the media was acting scrupulously when they criticized the Mainland Government. Programme Director, Robert Chung Ting-yiu of Hong Kong University said people's satisfaction with press freedom had receded significantly "but the general credibility of the news media has not changed much". Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor director Law Yuk-kai said the figures showed the latest trend concerning press freedom might not be directly related to self-censorship but was more likely about the Government's handling of media and information. He said the Government had demonstrated a heavy hand in recent months by detaining and charging journalists.

7) Hong Kong journalist threatened

An Apple Daily journalist in Hong Kong reported that a man telephoned him and asked about the content of an article published on October 15, about prostitution in Guangxi. The man asked for information about the article and asked whether the journalist intended to publish follow-up articles on the topic and demanded more information on the journalist’s intended articles. The man reportedly asked that the reports be deleted and when the journalist refused, the man threatened him saying “You have to be careful in the future.”

The journalist said that although he could not confirm the identity of the caller, he believed that the man is linked in some way with the local Police force because the manner in which he spoke resembled that of a Chinese Police officer. The journalist had also been told that Police in the province were angered by the report. Instances of violence, threats and intimidation have been reported in China and Hong Kong throughout the year.

8) Political influence alleged in Hong Kong’s first digital radio station

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) reported its deep concern regarding allegations that the Chinese Liaison Office in Hong Kong exercised undue political influence over the editorial policies of the Hong Kong-based Digital Broadcasting Corporation (DBC). The now mostly defunct DBC was the first digital radio station in Hong Kong and currently provides only one music channel after all the other channels were shut down. On October 10, after just four months on-air, the station was forced to cease operations following a disagreement between shareholders, and a lack of funds to continue broadcasting. However, allegations were raised that the closure was politically motivated. On October 20, a programme host of the station played a tape on-air outside the Hong Kong Government Building, which reportedly exhibited the Chinese Liaison Office seeking to influence the station’s editorial independence through the appointment of one of its hosts.

Calls for the government to intervene in the shareholders dispute were also made, but in a meeting held on October 29, the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung said that the Council refused to intervene in the case of the DBC because they did not want to set a bad example of interfering in shareholder disputes.

9) Concerns for Media Diversity and Workers’ Rights in Taiwan
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) shared its concern with its affiliate the Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ) over threats to media diversity and basic working rights of media personnel in Taiwan after the sale of Next Media Group’s Taiwan assets was revealed in October.

The ATJ has raised concerns about the impact of the sale of the Group on media diversity and the potential negative impact on press freedom. Taiwan’s media reported in mid-October that Hong Kong businessman and media mogul Jimmy Lai planned to sell his Taiwan-based print and television assets to a group of bidders including; Jeffrey Koo, the Chairman of the Chinatrust Charity Foundation (whose family has extensive business relations in China), William Wong, Chairman of the Formosa Plastics Group (FPG), and a Singapore-based private equity fund. Rumours also surfaced that one of the investors is media tycoon and Chairman of the Want Group, Tsai Eng-meng. However, Next Media Group’s Chairman rebuked the rumours saying the sale had been finalised ensuring no funding came from the Want Want China Times Group although Tsai Eng-meng already has extensive media holdings.

The sale to the consortium of investors, according to an October 17 report is worth approximately NT 17.5 billion which is an estimated US $600 million. The IFJ joined the ATJ in calling on the new owners to respect the right of employees to organise. The IFJ also stated that diversity of media ownership, plurality and editorial independence are integral to democracy and that Taiwan’s media must be supported by authorities to fulfil its democratic role, regardless of patterns of ownership.

Serenade Woo
IFJ Project Manager
IFJ Asia-Pacific

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

Find the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific

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