Hollande Asked to Raise Freedom Information During Official Visit to China
|Publisher||Reporters Without Borders|
|Publication Date||26 April 2013|
|Cite as||Reporters Without Borders, Hollande Asked to Raise Freedom Information During Official Visit to China, 26 April 2013, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/517e65c04.html [accessed 25 October 2016]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Reporters Without Borders urges French President François Hollande to raise human rights and freedom of information with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, during a two-day official visit to China that began yesterday.
Hollande's visit is the first by a foreign head of state since Xi was installed as China's president on 14 March.
"While it is clear from the size of the accompanying delegation of French businessmen that trade will be the leading subject of their talks, it is essential that Hollande should keep his promise - announced by government spokesman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem - to raise human rights with Xi, and this should include freedom of information," Reporters Without Borders said.
"We hope that Hollande will raise the issue of the 29 journalists and 69 netizens currently detained for using their right to inform others. China is now the world's biggest prison for news providers.
"We also hope that he will raise the thorny issue of censorship and cyber-surveillance, the economic consequences of which cannot be underestimated. The reaction to the censorship of Nanfang Zhoumo's New Year message highlighted the degree to which the Chinese people are increasingly ready to protest against these restrictions on their freedom."
Freedom of information is subject to serious violations in China, including censorship, Propaganda Department directives on media coverage, difficulties for foreign journalists to obtain accreditation, denial of visas, arrests, harassment and physical violence.
The 29 journalists and 69 cyber-dissidents currently detained in China include the 2010 Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo.
Reinforcement of the regulations governing the right to receive and impart news and information is a major source of concern, as it could mean that situation of freedom of information in China is suffering a long-term decline.
China's media regulator,¬ the General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, issued a directive on 16 April banning the Chinese media from using unauthorized information from foreign media and websites. Micro-blogging websites such as Sina Weibo are also being subjected to a great deal of censorship. After last weekend's earthquake in Sichuan, many Tweets critical of the relief operations were suppressed.
Censorship - both on- and offline - does not just violate fundamental freedoms; it also undermines trade and business, which are handicapped by the lack of reliable information. An op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by two experts with the European Centre for International Political Economy described it as "disguised protectionism."
Online censorship, in particular, has become a way of discriminating against foreign companies and giving preferential treatment to Chinese firms. Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for Competition, described this as a "trade barrier" in May 2010.
The issue was also raised by the US representative to the World Trade Organization in October 2011. A series of 45 questions were submitted in accordance with WTO regulations. China has not so far replied, although it is required by the rules to do so.
China is classified by Reporters Without Borders as one of the "Enemies of the Internet" and is ranked 173rd out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.