IFJ Press Freedom in China Campaign Bulletin

June 8, 2009

In this bulletin:

1. June 4 Prompts Return to Sweeping Censorship

­     Heightened Intervention and Surveillance

­     Heavy Restrictions on Journalists and Activists

­     Firewall Blocks Online Chatter

­     4 and 6 Are Banned

­     Non-Mainland Media Also Targeted

2. Charter 08 Supporters Warned Off Media

3. Journalists Prevented From Reporting Murder Case

4. Harassment of Human Rights Lawyers a No-Go Area


1. June 4 Prompts Return to Sweeping Censorship

Persistent and increased interference by government officials to clamp down on all media reporting related to the 20thChina in recent years. anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4 indicated a worrying return to China’s pre-Beijing Olympics intolerance of public discussion of taboo subjects. The clampdown picked up pace from May, with numerous incidents of interference reported in one of the heaviest censorship campaigns seen in

­     In April, well-known Beijing dissident Zhang Zuhua and online writer Zan Aizong were reportedly warned by China’s security bureau to desist from writing about the anniversary.

­     Around the same time, the bureau reportedly reminded all websites to censor or delete all June 4-related content, in keeping with the ban on articles or photos related to June 4 since 1989. 

­     In May, security officials reportedly instructed pro-democracy activists and members of the Tiananmen Mothers group not to engage with media personnel for interviews or at memorial events. Meanwhile, mainland newspapers were instructed by the Propaganda Department not to use the numbers 6 and 4 simultaneously in any articles. 

­     On May 18, Jiang Qisheng, vice president of Independent PEN, who has already been jailed for articles previously written about June 4, was unable to conduct an interview with the Hong Kong press in Beijing after security officials intervened. Jiang also reported that he had been interrogated and his house ransacked following his writing of an article called “Report of June 4” on May 15.

­     From May 19, mainland subscribers to Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao reported that content had been removed from their papers and delivery was disrupted, according to an editorial published in Ming Pao on May 28. Two other Hong Kong newspapers also found that June 4 content was removed and delivery delayed before the papers reached mainland readers. An anonymous source told Ming Pao that the delays and missing pages were a result of “senior instruction” to the delivery agent.

­     On May 25, security officers forced academic Zhou Duo to remain at home after he said he wanted to go to Tiananmen Square to participate in a hunger strike. Those who were allowed to go out, including online writer Zan Aizong, were subject to heavy surveillance.

­     Also on May 25, the China Think website, which ran online public discussion about June 4, was shut down without explanation. Online journalists, bloggers and writers reported a significant increase in reports of unavailable internet sites, forced closures of discussion boards and bans on social networking sites including Twitter, Hotmail, Blogspot and YouTube in the lead-up to June 4. 

­     From the end of May, foreign journalists travelling to mainland China were not permitted to photograph Tiananmen Square. At the same time, the Foreign Correspondents Club of China reported some journalists were blocked from conducting interviews and local interviewees were warned by security officials to refuse to answer any media questions. 

­     On June 3, Zeng Jinyan, blogger and wife of imprisoned human rights defender Hu Jia, was prevented from leaving her house by several security bureau officers. She was among several journalists, bloggers, academics, dissidents and members of Tiananmen Mothers who were forced to remain in their houses or denied access to memorial events in the lead-up to June 4.

­     Hong Kong-based Esquire magazine reportedly removed 16 pages of materials related to June 4. The journalist responsible for the feature articles told the IFJ the last-minute decision to remove the materials was made by the publisher, South China Media.

2. Charter 08 Supporters Warned Off Media

As many as 50 people listed as signatories to the pro-democracy petition Charter 08, which was published on December 10, 2008 and calls for political and democratic reform in China, were warned not to talk to the media about harassment. Beijing dissident Zhang Zuhua and academic Jiang Qisheng, both signatories, told the IFJ that despite contending with interrogation and ransacking of their homes, security officers threatened at the end of May that they would be asked to leave Beijing regardless of whether they talked to the media or not. All communication devices of the signatories have also been heavily monitored. 

3. Journalists Prevented From Reporting Murder Case

June 4 was not the only topic with which censorious officials took issue. Two separate groups of journalists reported harassment by local officials while attempting to report in late May on a murder case involving a local government official in Badong village. Wang Keqin, a veteran journalist and a blogger, said that he and other journalists were put under surveillance and then forced to leave Badong on May 28. Two days earlier, the provincial office of the Central Propaganda Department reportedly requested an order to stop all coverage of the case, although none of the media personnel forced to leave Badong had seen or heard of the order. Kong Pu, of The Beijing News, and Wei Yi Magazine, of Southern Metropolis Daily, were also reportedly harassed by plain-clothes officers while interviewing the murder suspect’s grandmother at her home on May 28. The officials confiscated the two reporters’ bags and equipment, claiming to be her relatives. Wei’s camera was returned several hours later.

4. Harassment of Human Rights Lawyers a No-Go Area

 Journalists and media outlets in China are refraining from reporting cases of harassment of human rights lawyers by the government-run Beijing Justice Bureau and the Beijing Lawyers’ Association for fear of potential repercussions, according to reports to the IFJ. A mainland journalist, who asked to remain anonymous, said that no media outlet had reported on any of 22 cases of human rights lawyers being harassed after they alleged malpractice by the association and the justice bureau. The accusations against the two organisations include allegations that they instructed law firms to rescind employment contracts of lawyers involved in human rights cases against the Chinese authorities. The IFJ expressed its concern at the powerful way in which official attempts to suppress reporting on matters of public interest has an effect even without official restrictions.

If you have information on a press freedom violation or matters relating to media freedom and journalists’ rights in China, contact staff at IFJ Asia-Pacific so that action can be taken. To contribute to this bulletin, email ifjchina@ifj-asia.org.

IFJ Asia-Pacific