April 9, 2008

Tibet Repression Affects Journalists

The Bejing Olympics are developing into something quite different from a sporting event. These two articles reveal a China that is neither flattering nor worthy of hosting the Olympics. First, AP News covers how goon squads and intimidation techniques being used on reporters:
Foreign Media in China Threatened,
Harassed Over Tibet C
, AP News, Apr 07, 2008
Western reporters in China have received harassing phone
calls, e-mails and text messages, some with death threats, supposedly from ordinary Chinese complaining about alleged bias in coverage of recent anti-Chinese protests in Tibet.
The harassment began two
weeks ago and was largely targeted at foreign television broadcasters, CNN in particular. But the campaign broadened in recent days after the mobile phone numbers and other contact information for reporters from The Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today were posted on several Web sites, including a military affairs chat site.
[...] Spokesmen for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the government's State Council Information Office and the national police ministry did not respond to telephone calls and faxed q
uestions Monday seeking comment about the threats.
[...] The complaints against foreign media come just four months before 30,000 journalists from around the world come to Beijing for an Olympics meant to feature a more open, modern China.
[...] Contact information for reporters from the AP, Wall Street Journal and USA Today was posted online after they were among a group of foreign media taken by the Chinese government to Lhasa to report on conditions two weeks after the violent protests.
The Web sites listed the reporters as those who "fabricated untrue news about Tibet." Neither the Web sites nor government officials have cited specific criticisms about the reports.
This one is from Reporters Without Borders' Annual Report on China:
China - Annual report 2008
Area: 9,598,050 sq. km.
Population: 1,315,844,000.
Language: Mandarin.

Head of state: Hu Jintao.

An icy blast blew on press freedom in China ahead of the 17th Communist Party Congress in Beijing in October. Journalists were forced to put out official propaganda, while cyber-censors stalked the Net. Despite the introduction of more favourable rules in January, nearly 180 foreign press correspondents were arrested or harassed in 2007.
Reporters Without Borders representatives met for the first time Chinese officials in Beijing at the start of the year, including the deputy information minister. The authorities said they were ready to reconsider the cases of journalists and Internet-users currently in prison, including Zhao Yan, who worked for the New York Times and was sentenced
to three years in prison on the basis of false accusations. But they did not keep their promises. Zhao Yan was released in September having served his full sentence. And all the other promises came to nothing. At the end of the year, the authorities refused to grant visas to five representatives of Reporters Without Borders who wanted to travel to Beijing.
[...] Police began arresting dissidents and bloggers calling for improved human rights ahead of the staging of the Olympics. The best known of these “Olympics’ prisoners” is rights activist, Hu Jia, who was arrested at his Beijing home on 27 December. Police produced an arrest warrant accusing him of “inciting subversion of state power”. His wife, the blogger, Zeng Jinyan, and their young daughter got their home surrounded by scores of police. The couple are activists for the environment and the rights of Aids patients and political prisoners and were pushing at the limits of free expression in China by posting sensitive news on their blogs.
Chinese contributors to foreign-based news websites also found themselves singled out for harassment. At least three contributors to US-based news site Boxun are currently in prison. Police arrested one Boxun correspondent Sun Lin, also known under the pen-name Jie Mu, in Nanjing, eastern China on 30 May 2007 after he exposed abuse of power, including in videos posted on the site. Another regular Boxun correspondent, Huang Jinqiu, has been in prison since 2003 after being sentenced to 12 years for “subversion of state power” in eastern Jiangsu province. And in August 2007, cyber-dissident and blogger He Weihua was forcibly admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Hunan in southern China. His family said it was linked to articles published on his blog www.boxun.com/hero/hewh/. Before being released in February 2008, Li Changqing, who had written several articles for the same US-based site, was jailed for three years by a court in Fuzhou, Fujian province in the south-east for circulating “alarmist news”.

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