10 June 2011

Campaigns and Advocacy

IFJ Press Freedom in China Campaign Bulletin - June 2011

(IFJ/IFEX) - June 8, 2011 - In this bulletin:

To IFJ Asia-Pacific affiliates and friends,

In this bulletin:

1. Jasmine clampdown: New IFJ Report, Global Appeal
2. Government Training Courses in "Social Management"
3. Citizen Journalists Targeted in China Suppression
4. Gmail Hacked: Google accuses China
5. Series of Bans on News of Protests and Emergencies
6. Journalist Faces Sacking for Endorsing Ai Weiwei
7. Reporter Beaten After Investigating Suspect Property Developments
8. Media Outlet Punished for Breaching Restrictive Order
9. Working Conditions Deteriorate for Foreign Correspondents in China

1. Jasmine clampdown: New IFJ Report, Global Appeal

The IFJ issued a new report, The Jasmine Effect: China's New Clampdown, which exposed the Central Government's renewed attack on freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of association after the scent of revolution spread from uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. The clampdown has seen more than one hundred journalists, dissidents, lawyers, activists, bloggers, writers and artists detained and interrogated, most without due process. A number of those detained have been charged, and some have already been punished with labour "re-education." A joint letter initiated by the IFJ and signed on June 1-2 by 33 international free expression organisations at the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) Strategy Conference in Beirut, Lebanon called on President Hu Jintao to immediately release all those detained and General Secretary of United Nations and the High Commissioner for Human Rights to appoint a Special Rapporteur to investigate human rights violations in China, with special reference to violations of journalists' right to freely report.

See the report here: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/the-jasmine-effect-chinas-new-clampdown

See the joint letter here: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/ifj-freedom-of-expression-groups-call-for-action-at-beirut-meeting


2. Government Training Courses in "Social Management"

Training courses for all Communist Party officials, including those working in villages, towns, urban communities and neighbourhood committees designed to maintain their "social management" skills were held in May, the People's Daily reported on June 5. Li Yuanchao, head of the Party Central Committee's Organisation Department and member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee said at a May 18 training session: "To maintain social stability and harmony at the grassroots level, local Party organisations must play the role of ‘fighting forts." The training courses follow remarks made by the President of China Hu Jintao, at a seminar for key leaders of bureaus and departments of all provincial governments on February 19, responding to calls for "jasmine" style protests that were spreading through the internet. At the seminar, Hu reminded all leaders to "enhance their social management skills" in order to ensure social stability and emphasised that online opinion must remain within the well-established framework of "supervision of public opinion." Zhou Yongkang, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee with oversight of public security, made similar comments on February 20, the day slated for the first protests in China, calling on security officers to "ensure all social disagreement and conflicts vanish when they are in sprout".

3. Citizen Journalists Targeted in China Suppression

Wang Lihong, an activist who posted reports on detained Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo online and regularly provided information to media on the use of violent tactics by government officials and controversial evictions, was charged on April 20 with disrupting public order. According to a Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch report on May 6, Wang was arrested and her house was ransacked by Beijing police on March 21. A computer and books were removed by officers. Meanwhile, Liu Feiyue, website manager at Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch, told the IFJ that many citizen journalists and human rights activists have experienced human rights abuses from provincial security bureaus. Zheng Chuangtian, a volunteer at the organisation's website and activist Hu Jun were charged with inciting subversion of state power by police of Huilai county, Jieyang, Guangdong province and Changji city autonomous prefecture, Xinjiang, respectively on February 26 and 16 May, after they re-tweeted information relating to the Middle East protests. Zheng was released on bail on March 28 but Hu is still detained.

See: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/citizen-journalists-targeted-in-china-suppression

4. Gmail Hacked: Google accuses China

Search engine giant Google announced on June 1 that a "spear phishing" attack originating in Jinan, capital city of Shandong province had broken into Gmail accounts of senior of United States Government officials and Chinese dissidents. According to various reports, the scam began with a tailor-made email which appeared to be from a person known to the victim that led to a fake Gmail log in page where users would enter their password. Google said the goal of phishing was to monitor the contents of users' emails, with perpetrators apparently using stolen passwords to change people's forwarding and delegation email settings. Google suspended service for a few hours in order to rectify the problem. Foreign Ministry of China spokesperson Hong Lei said in a routine press briefing on June 2 that: "Blaming these misdeeds on China is unacceptable." Hong claimed that China is itself a victim of hacking, and that hacking is an international problem. He said so-called Chinese state support for hacking is completely fictitious and that there are ulterior motives at work. Reports emerged in the international media on May 12 that the administrator of a "Chinese Jasmine Revolution" blog also claimed to have been blocked from accessing their blogspot account that day.

5. Series of Bans on News of Protests and Emergencies

The Central Government has immediately demanded all local government officials move to "secure social stability," by preventing people from enjoying freedom of assembly. Reports about large-scale labour rights protests in the Qixia Region of Nanjing on May 12 and 13 were banned by the provincial propaganda department. Media portal Aboluowang reported that more than 1,000 employees of Hua Fei Television Manufacturing Company were protesting because they had not received compensation before the company shut down. Some of the protesters were detained by police after a scuffle. No media reported on the events. A large-scale protest in Southern (Inner) Mongolia on May 23, prompted by the death of Mergen, an organiser of the Mongolian herders of Right Ujumchin Banner in Southern (Inner) Mongolia, was also banned from all media reports in print, broadcast and online, including blogs. News of a series of explosions at government buildings in Fuzhou, Jiangxi province was also banned by the Central Propaganda Department, with news outlets instructed to rely on government news agency Xinhua reports. Three government buildings in Linchun District, Fuzhou, were shaken by consecutive explosions in which at least three people were killed including the person allegedly responsible for the attack, farmer Qian Mingqi, who had apparently become frustrated after being forced to leave his land with little compensation, according to reports by Hong Kong-based broadcaster Hong Kong Cable Television.

See: http://tw.aboluowang.com/news/data/2011/0514/article_124783.html


6. Journalist Faces Sacking for Endorsing Ai Weiwei

Song Zhibiao, a commentator of popular national newspaper Southern Metropolis Daily was suspended after he penned a May 12 editorial to mark the three-year anniversary of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which made references to a number of Ai Weiwei's artworks which delved into the tragedy and its ripple effects. The editorial was posted to the newspaper's website and to other sites for only a few hours before it was deleted. It is believed that the article was removed from many other Mainland China websites under a directive from the State Council Office, which has a well-equipped team that monitors online activity. "Song must be punished for writing the article about Ai Weiwei, which goes against an order by the Central Propaganda Department," a Mainland China journalist told the IFJ. After the news of the imminent sacking emerged, Song has received widespread public support from his colleagues and other journalists on microblogging services.

See: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/ifj-condemns-deletion-of-newspaper-editorial-supporting-ai-weiwei


7. Reporter Beaten After Investigating Suspect Property Developments

Journalist Tung Yi, of Sanqin Daily newspaper, a subsidiary of Shaanxi Daily newspaper that is controlled by the Communist Party of Shaanxi Province, was seriously injured in an assault on May 30 after reporting on an allegedly illegal property development in Caijiapo, Shaanxi Province. The IFJ learned that Tung was assaulted by at least four unknown persons after he asked a man who claimed to be an official in a Caijiapo local administrative office for official licenses for development. The newspaper reported on May 31 that Tung was about to leave the office when the man cried for help, saying "don't let him go - break his camera, beat him up." Tung was punched in the head several times and was hospitalised with internal bleeding. His camera was damaged and recordings on his cell phone deleted.

8. Media Outlet Punished for Breaching Restrictive Order

The IFJ learned that Yue Yang Evening Post reported on May 11 that China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec), a domestic and international listed company, might have quality defects in petroleum that caused mechanical problems in cars. The article was uploaded to the newspaper's official website but only lasted for a few hours before it was deleted under orders made by the provincial propaganda department, citing a beach of a May 9 order. The order demanded all local media temporarily stop reporting on the the quality of petroleum as the case is still under investigation. The quality of petroleum has been under question since 2010, when many car owners across the nation, including Hong Kong, complained that their cars had mechanical problems after using the company's petroleum. Sinopec is a large petroleum and petrochemical group incorporated by the Chinese Government in 1998, which is funded and controlled by the state.

9. Working Conditions Deteriorate for Foreign Correspondents in China

A survey by the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China has found that 94 per cent of foreign correspondents working in mainland China believed working conditions had worsened in the past year. The survey, released on May 19 also found that 70 per cent of the 108 respondents said they had experienced harassment in the past year. However China Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu said the club "lacked legality," and claimed that reporting freedom in China was "continuing to increase." Forty percent of respondents said their sources had been harassed, detained, questioned by officials or suffered other repercussions after contact with foreign reporters. The government has imposed growing limits especially when it comes to sensitive subjects. Tibet remains off-limits with the exception of government-organised visits.


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