28 May 1999

Alert

RSF marks anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre


Incident details

other


(RSF/IFEX) - The following is an RSF press release:




Press release

Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre


In 10 years, 56 Chinese journalists imprisoned, over 40 foreign journalists
arrested


On 4 June 1989, Chinese army tanks crushed the student revolt on Tiananmen
Square, Beijing, and sounded the death knell of open democratic opposition
in China. Newspapers, some of which were in the front line during that
period, are still suffering the consequences of the censorship and
repression brought in after what became known as the "Beijing Spring".


In the ten years since, at least 56 journalists - 43 of whom played a direct
part in the events - have been imprisoned, some for a few weeks, others for
several years. Five are still in jail: Yu Dongyue, an art critic with The
News of Liuyang, who was arrested on 23 May 1989 and sentenced to 20 years
in jail; Hu Liping, a journalist with the Beijing Daily, arrested on 7 April
1990 and sentenced to ten years; Chen Yanbin, joint editor of the
underground magazine Tielu, arrested at the end of 1990 and sentenced to 15
years; Zhang Yafei, joint editor of Tielu, arrested in September 1990 and
sentenced to 12 years; Liu Jingsheng, a journalist with the underground
magazine Tansuo, arrested on 28 May 1992 and sentenced to 15 years.


A leading figure in the student revolt, Gao Yu, a journalist with Economic
Weekly until she was first arrested on 3 June 1989, was released on medical
grounds on 15 February 1999 after spending five and a half years in prison.
She is not allowed to leave Beijing without permission or to talk to foreign
media. Like her, many journalists who were arrested or victims of sanctions
after June 1989 are still the paying the price of their commitment to the de
mocracy movement. Some have been forced to live in exile, such as Wang
Juntao (1993 winner of the Reporters Sans Frontières-Fondation de France
award) and Wang Dan; others, such as Chen Zeming, are under house arrest.
About 20 journalists have been forced to resign, retire, or change jobs, and
50 or so have been victims of sanctions.


Even today, journalists who dare to question the government version of the
events of 4 June 1989 - the government still maintains that the army
intervention was an "appropriate response" to the protests - or who try to
commemorate the Beijing Spring are taking a risk. Cao Jiahe, editor of the
newspaper Dong Fang (Orient), was released from police custody on 14 May
1999 after being held for three days. He is reported to have endured sleep
deprivation, and to have been kicked and whipped with a belt. He is accused
of publishing a pamphlet calling for the official version of the events to
be reconsidered.


Since June 1989, the authorities have kept a close watch on the work of
foreign correspondents, and especially their relations with Chinese
dissidents. In the past ten years, over 40 foreign journalists have been
arrested after meeting leading figures in the student movement or Chinese
democrats. Eight others have been thrown out of the country. The most recent
victim, Yukihisa Nakatsu, Beijing correspondent of the Japanese daily
Yomiuri Shimbun, was arrested on 4 October 1998 and given three days to get
out of China for "stealing state secrets". He was expelled two days later.
The ruling came a month after he went to Tibet. Some of his colleagues said
the expulsion might also have been due to his friendship with Chinese
journalist Shi Binhai, who was arrested on 5 September 1998 and reportedly
released in April 1999. Shi Binhai was also jailed immediately after the
Beijing Spring.


In May 1999 RSF learned that the accreditation of Taiwanese correspondents
in China would expire at the end of the month and would not be renewed until
after 4 June.


Well ahead of the tenth anniversary of the student movement, the government
took steps to prevent attempts to commemorate it and to restrict the
availability of news about any such events. At the end of April 1999, police
ordered people in charge of hotels and apartment blocks equipped to receive
foreign TV channels by satellite to stop showing broadcasts by companies in
five countries: France, Germany, Italy, Spain and South Korea. As 4 June
drew closer, various foreign channels were preparing programmes about the
Beijing Spring. On 24 May RSF learned that the authorities in Shanghai had
asked companies supplying news to pager owners and computer networks to halt
their activities temporarily. No explanation was given. Since mid-May,
Chinese cable operators have been told to stop relaying the programmes of
the Hong Kong-based Phoenix Satellite Television Company...until after 4
June.


Since the start of 1999, the Chinese authorities have issued several
directives to prevent the media from straying from the official line
concerning the Beijing Spring. On 22 January, President Jiang Zemin reminded
propaganda officials that they should "pay particular attention to social
order and political stability." Meanwhile the People's Daily, the official
communist party newspaper, reported that new legislation had been introduced
to "punish anyone who deliberately publishes, prints, copies or distributes
material inciting the overthrow of the government and the socialist system,
or the division of the country." A month earlier, the Chinese president had
stressed that any attempt at destabilisation should be "nipped in the bud."
In March, the Beijing authorities stopped issuing new publishing licences to
newspapers and magazines until the second half of the year.


Specific censorship measures have also been reported. Most recently, in
April, the Hong Kong-based newspaper Ming Pao said the communist party
committee in southern Guangdong province had "banned all articles about the
4 June events and improper use of material taken from the internet." The
committee's directive advised newspaper executives to "restrict the number
of articles written by commentators" in case their opinions differed from
those of the party. The local authorities began their campaign against
liberal media in December 1998. The magazine Cultural Times, published in
Guangzhou, Guangdong province, has been banned since 30 December 1998. Its
editor said "higher authorities" had told the magazine it was not authorised
for sale outside the province, but he believed its "bold and liberal"
editorial line was behind the move. Meanwhile, executive staff of the daily
Guangzhou-Hong Kong Daily News were forced to resign after the local
communist party committee accused them of "infringement of reporting
regulations and bourgeois liberal propaganda." On 22 January 1999, it was
learned that following publication of articles on the Beijing Spring in
December 1998, The Shenzhen Illustrated Review had been suspended
indefinitely and The New Weekly for four issues. The New Weekly had said
that after the Tiananmen Square massacre "9,158 students had been admitted
to 32 Beijing hospitals." Southern Weekend, often quoted as an example of an
independent weekly, which had revealed several cases of police violence, and
the scientific magazine Fangfa received official warnings. On 12 March,
Fangfa was suspended indefinitely by the press and publications board for
publishing too many reports of a political nature, particularly an article
written jointly by a member of the banned Chinese Democratic Party.


Chinese dissidents and journalists living in exile have also been
targeted...and censored. In mid-May, the US-based web site of Wang Dan,
which is devoted to the memory of the massacre, was sabotaged by hackers who
filled the "Signatures" and "Comments" section with insults and obscene
remarks.


On the tenth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Reporters Sans
Frontières calls on the Chinese government to:


- release the 12 journalists currently in prison, five of them because of
their participation in the1989 democratic movement,

- reinstate all journalists forced to resign, retire, or change jobs because
they supported the student protests,

- put a stop to harassment of journalists who took part in the movement
(house arrest, phone-tapping, having them followed, and so on),

- allow journalists living in exile to return to China, and ensure their
safety,

- allow the Chinese press to report on the activities of dissident groups,
either in China or abroad.





Source

Reporters Without Borders
47, rue Vivienne
75002 Paris, France
rsf (@) rsf.org


Fax:+33 1 45 23 11 51
China
 
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