1 June 2011

Joint action

Thirty-three IFEX members express grave concern over restrictions on freedom of expression


(IFJ/IFEX) - 1 June 2011 - Free expression advocates from around the world gathered this week in Beirut, Lebanon, at the 16th IFEX General Meeting. Thirty-three IFEX members signed on to the following letter to President Hu Jintao:

Hu Jintao

President of China

Fu You Street

Xicheng, Beijing 

100017

Dear President Hu,

We, the undersigned members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), are writing to express our grave concerns regarding violations of human rights in China, with particular reference to a surge in violations committed by State authorities since February 20, 2011.

As we gather in Lebanon for IFEX's bi-annual conference of the international community of journalists' organisations and press freedom defenders, we note with alarm the efforts of China's authorities at all levels to restrict freedom of expression in regard to debate on political reform in China, following reform movements in the Middle East and North Africa since late 2010.

We respectfully remind you that China, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, is bound by international norms and agreements to uphold and implement the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
These rights include the right to liberty, the right to a fair trial, the right not to be arrested or detained arbitrarily, the right to no arbitrary interference with privacy, the right to freedom of movement, the right to freedom of expression, the right to hold opinions without interference, the right to seek and impart information, and the right to freedom of assembly.

All of these human rights are also enshrined in China's Constitution, specifically in Chapter 2, which refers to the Fundamental Rights and Duties of Citizens, as well as in Articles 35, 37, 39, 40 and 41. We agree with the spirit of China's Constitution that the above rights are fundamental and cannot be overridden or contravened.

However, China's central and provincial governments and authorities continue to breach your country's Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by actively seeking to silence and punish individuals and groups who speak out or share information on matters of significant public interest and concern.

Local journalists and others seeking to report on issues of great public interest, including the online movement debating a reform agenda for China and the continuing impacts of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, are severely restricted or punished.

Most recently, since February 20, 2011, we are aware of more than 100 people including journalists, online writers, artists, lawyers and activists who have been interrogated, detained, put under house arrest or jailed.

Those targeted include writer Ran Yunfei and human rights activists Ding Mao, Chen Wei and Zhu Yufu, who were charged with inciting subversion of state power after being detained by police on February 19 and 20. No explanation has been provided for the charges.

Meanwhile, renowned artist Ai Weiwei remains in detention after being taken by police from Beijing International Airport on April 3, 2011. No explanation was provided for his detention. However, following an outcry by domestic and international organisations, police now allege Ai was involved in tax evasion.

Wen Tao, a journalist and associate of Ai, also disappeared on April 3, 2011. There is no information on his whereabouts. Wen had been forced to leave the Global Times, a website connected with the People's Daily, after he reported on articles written by Ai. In one of the reports, Ai called on members of China's National Committee to investigate issues around the Sichuan earthquake and its continuing impacts.

 Commentator Song Zhibiao was suspended from his work after he wrote an editorial published in the Southern Metropolis newspaper on May 12, 2011 paying tribute to Ai for his kindness toward victims of the earthquake. The editorial was removed from the newspaper's website after several hours. Song is now threatened with dismissal.

We further note regular violations of the rights of foreign journalists to report freely and safely, as when at least 16 journalists were assaulted and obstructed by police on February 27, 2011.

China's Constitution and the Regulations of the People's Republic of China Concerning Reporting Activities of Permanent Offices of Foreign Media Organisations and Foreign Journalists (Regulation 17) and the Regulations for Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan (Regulations 6 and 7) – issued and reiterated in the period before and after the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games – specify that journalists have the right to report independently and freely.

We appreciate President Hu's repeated assertions that the State has an obligation to promote social harmony. We believe that upholding respect for human rights does not conflict with this obligation, but supports it.

It is the duty of your Government to ensure all human rights are upheld in accordance with China's Constitution and international instruments, and to direct authorities and governments at all levels to defend and uphold these rights.
In a year marking the 90th anniversary of the Communist Party in China, we urge that you apply the authority of your office and Government to exercise your duties and responsibilities to:

• Protect the fundamental rights of all peoples in China.
• Release unconditionally all people who have been arbitrary detained.
• Direct law enforcement officers at all level of government to end harassment and obstruction of media personnel and those whom they report on.
• End all forms of censorship of the media and personal communications.

We alert you to our call for the United Nations Secretary General and High Commissioner for Human Rights to:

• Appoint a Special Rapporteur to investigate and report to the United Nations Human Rights Council on human rights violations in China, with special reference to violations of the right of journalists to report freely and independently and the rights of all to freedom of expression and access to information.

Finally, we call on you to prove China's commitment to the rights enshrined in its own Constitution by guiding your Government to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and to implement the principles of the Convention in upholding the people's fundamental right to freedom of expression and access to information.

Yours Respectfully, CC:
Wen Jiabao 

Premier of China

Fu You Street

Xicheng, Beijing 

100017

Ban Ki-moon

Secretary General of United Nations

United Nations Headquarters 

New York, NY 10017 

Fax: +1 212 963 2155 

Email: ecu@un.org

Navanethem Pillay

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations

CH-1211 Geneva 10

Switzerland

Email: civilsociety@ohchr.org


CC:
Wen Jiabao 

Premier of China

Fu You Street

Xicheng, Beijing 

100017

Ban Ki-moon

Secretary General of United Nations

United Nations Headquarters 

New York, NY 10017 

Fax: +1 212 963 2155 

Email: ecu@un.org

Navanethem Pillay

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations

CH-1211 Geneva 10

Switzerland

Email: civilsociety@ohchr.org
China
 
More from China
  • Freedom on the Net 2018: China

    The level of internet freedom declined due to the new cybersecurity law which strengthened repressive restrictions on online activities.

  • Forbidden Feeds: Government Controls on Social Media in China.

    Based on extensive interviews with writers, poets, artists, activists, and others personally affected by the government’s grip on online expression, as well as interviews with anonymous employees at Chinese social media companies, the report lays bare the destructive impact of the Chinese government’s vision of “cyber sovereignty” on netizens who dare to dissent.

  • Ten-Year Edition: A Decade of Decline

    The general trend over the past 10 years has been bleak, with an overall negative trajectory for press freedom. The major turning point was the election of Xi Jinping as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China in 2012 and President of China in 2013.

 
More from Asia & Pacific
  • TRUTH VS MISINFORMATION: THE COLLECTIVE PUSH BACK

    SOUTH ASIA PRESS FREEDOM REPORT 2018-2019

  • The Campaign for Justice: Press Freedom in South Asia 2013-14

    Journalism in South Asia is far from an easy profession, as the 12th annual review of journalism in the region "The Campaign for Justice: Press Freedom in South Asia 2013-14" portrays. But this year's report also tells the story of the courage of South Asia's journalists to defend press freedom and to ensure citizens' right to information and freedom of expression in the face of increasing challenges to the profession and personal safety.

  • THE STORIES WOMEN JOURNALISTS TELL: Women in Media in South Asia

    The report is the first created by the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) looking specifically at the experience of women journalists in the South Asia sub-region


At this point, would publish cover: "Home page"
 
IFEX is a global network of committed organisations working to defend and promote free expression.
Permission is granted for material on this website to be reproduced or republished in whole or in part provided the source member and/or IFEX is cited with a link to the original item.