Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 July 2014, 15:15 GMT

Attacks on the Press in 2001 - China (including Hong Kong)

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 2002
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 2001 - China (including Hong Kong), February 2002, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c5661a28.html [accessed 30 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis 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.

In 2001, the Chinese government finally achieved two long-standing goals that brought the country closer to full integration in the international community. In July, Beijing won a bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games, and in November, the World Trade Organization officially accepted China as a member. These developments helped secure the legacy of President Jiang Zemin, Premier Zhu Rongji, and National People's Congress Chairman Li Peng, who are slated to retire after the 16th Party Congress. Nevertheless, in the waning days of the current administration, the country's rulers took full advantage of entrenched media control to stifle critical reporting about their leadership and plans for their succession.

Chinese media outlets experienced one of the most severe crackdowns in recent years. Publications were closed, outspoken reporters were arrested, and hundreds of journalists were sent to Beijing for so-called political training sessions. CPJ documented eight arrests in 2001, and only one release (that of journalist Guo Xinmin). New research revealed the cases of six more journalists jailed in previous years, bringing the total number of journalists imprisoned at year's end to 35. China's record as the world's leading jailer of journalists helped ensure that, for the fifth straight year, Jiang appeared on CPJ's list of the Ten Worst Enemies of the Press.

In August, China Central Television announced the "Seven No's," topics that the government can ban a publication for covering. Among the prohibited topics are "state secrets," a loosely defined term that can encompass information in publicly available official documents. The arrests and subsequent expulsions of several foreign-based scholars conducting research in China this year highlighted the government's arbitrary use of the charge.

The year opened on an ominous note with the murder of journalist Feng Zhaoxia, the first case CPJ has documented of a reporter killed for his work in China. In January, Feng, an investigative reporter for the Xi'an newspaper Gejie Daobao, was found in a ditch outside the city with his throat cut. CPJ believes he was killed for reporting on local officials' alliances with criminal gangs.

While the government officially encourages reporters to uncover local corruption, in practice, those who do face harassment, threats, or arrest. Veteran journalist and economist He Qinglian, who has written extensively about corruption, fled to the United States in June after escalating surveillance on her home made her fear imminent arrest.

One of CPJ's 2001 International Press Freedom awardees, Jiang Weiping, was sentenced to eight years in prison after writing a series of articles for the Hong Kong magazine Qianshao (Frontline) about high-level corruption in northeastern Chinese cities. A veteran journalist for the Xinhua News Agency and the newspaper Wen Hui Bao, Jiang knew the risks he faced by covering local elites' misconduct, so he wrote the stories under various pen names and published them in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, Jiang was tracked down and detained in December 2000, then held for nine months before being tried.

The Chinese media suffered a huge blow in the spring when several editors at the newspaper Nanfang Zhoumo (Southern Weekend) were either demoted or fired after they published a report examining how poverty and other forms of inequality might have led members of a local gang to a life of crime. Nanfang Zhoumo had long pushed the boundaries of media control by reporting frankly on social problems such as AIDS, crime, and the trafficking of women. After the crackdown, the pioneering newspaper became a bland publication, indistinguishable from hundreds of other official papers in China.

While the central government finally acknowledged the rapid spread of AIDS in the country, journalists who tried to report on the subject were harassed, threatened, or detained by local officials unwilling to expose the severity of the problem in their territory. AIDS patients have been routinely warned not to talk to the media, and a group of Beijing-based journalists who traveled to Suixian, Henan Province, in November to investigate the epidemic there were detained for two days in a government guest house, according to The New York Times.

With more than 26 million people online, Internet chat rooms have become an important forum for political debate. Chinese authorities view this phenomenon with alarm and throughout 2001 used various methods to restrict or monitor online communications. Internet cafés became a prime target in 2001, with 17,000 closed beginning in April. Those remaining were forced to install software to block Web sites that the government considers politically or morally objectionable.

During the year, eight people were arrested for publishing or distributing information online. At year's end, five of those tried were still awaiting a verdict, including Huang Qi, who was jailed in 2000 for publishing a Web site that included articles about the democracy movement and the banned spiritual movement Falun Gong. The four others were tried for organizing an informal group that discussed current political and social issues and distributed essays online.

In what could be perceived as an opening in the Internet industry, the government said it will allow foreign companies to provide Internet access on the mainland. AOL-Time Warner was the first company to win such a contract when it signed a joint venture deal with Legend Holdings, China's largest personal computer manufacturer. Under the deal, the details of which have not been made public, AOL software will be pre-installed on all Legend computers. Privacy and free speech advocates raised concerns about how AOL might deal with Chinese laws requiring all Internet service providers to make detailed records of their customers' online activities available to the government.

Foreign television companies also won the right to broadcast inside the mainland. In October, AOL-Time Warner signed a deal to broadcast its Mandarin-language China Entertainment Television (CETV) via cable providers in southern Guangdong Province. In return, AOL will broadcast the official China Central Television on channels in the United States, beginning with 24-hour broadcasts on its affiliates in Houston, New York City, and Los Angeles. Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation signed a similar deal for its Star TV channel in December.

However, these deals seem unlikely to expand television viewers' choices significantly, since the government will require foreign broadcasters to use a state-owned satellite system controlled by censors. The companies that have already signed deals said they will restrict programming to entertainment shows only. A China-based spokesman for News Corporation defended the decision, telling Agence France-Presse that, "There are certain programs we wouldn't air in the Middle East because they would be considered offensive for religious reasons. If you call this self-censorship, then of course we're doing a kind of self-censorship."

January 15
Feng Zhaoxia, Gejie Daobao KILLED

Feng, a reporter for the Xi'an-based daily Gejie Daobao, was found in a ditch outside Xi'an with his throat cut, according to Chinese and international press reports.

Feng was an investigative reporter who wrote about criminal gangs and their links to corrupt local politicians. He had received repeated death threats, and his rented room had been broken into many times. In the days before his death, he told colleagues he was being followed and that he feared for his life, according to Reuters. On January 14, he moved to new lodgings as a safety precaution.

Soon after Feng's body was found, police ruled his death a suicide and banned the local press from writing about it. According to relatives who identified his body, there was a four-inch gash in his throat and no blood on his clothes, making it unlikely he could have killed himself. One relative told Reuters, "He had no reason to commit suicide. He had a happy, healthy family, a good job, and no psychological problems."

Feng's relatives and colleagues believe he was killed for his journalistic work. They have petitioned local authorities to reopen the case but have received no response.

Feng, a former farmer, began writing articles and sending them to local publications in the hope of becoming a journalist. After his first article was published in 1980, he won several awards for his writing before being hired by Gejie Daobao in 1996.

March 13
Yang Zili, free-lancer IMPRISONED
Xu Wei, Xiaofei Ribao IMPRISONED
Zhang Honghai, free-lancer IMPRISONED
Jin Haike, free-lancer IMPRISONED

Yang, Xu, Jin, and Zhang were detained on March 13 and charged with subversion on April 20, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy. The four were active participants in the "Xin Qingnian Xuehui" (New Youth Study Group), an informal gathering of individuals who explored topics related to political and social reform and used the Internet to circulate relevant articles.

Yang and Xu were detained separately on March 13. Less is known about the circumstances under which Zhang and Jin were detained, but they were also taken into custody around mid-March, according to the Information Center.

Yang, the group's most prominent member, is well known in liberal academic circles for his technological expertise in evading government firewalls and creating e-mail accounts that cannot be monitored, according to a report in The New York Times. His Web site, "Yangzi de Sixiang Jiayuan" (Yangzi's Garden of Ideas), featured poems, essays, and reports by various authors on subjects ranging from the shortcomings of rural elections to broad discussions of political theory.

Authorities shut down the site after Yang's arrest, according to a well-informed U.S.-based source who did not wish to be identified. The source created a mirror site (www.bringmenews.com/ China/freeyzl/mirror/).

When Xu, a reporter with Xiaofei Ribao (Consumer Daily), was detained on March 13, authorities confiscated his computer, other professional equipment, and books, according to an account published online by his girlfriend, Wang Ying. Wang reported that public security officials also ordered the Xiaofei Ribao to fire Xu. The newspaper has refused to discuss Xu's case with reporters, according to The Associated Press.

All four were tried on September 28 by the Beijing Number One Intermediate People's Court, but no verdict had been announced by year's end.

March 15
Liu Haofeng, free-lancer IMPRISONED

Liu was secretly arrested in Shanghai in mid-March while conducting research on social conditions in rural China for the dissident China Democracy Party (CDP). On May 16, Liu was sentenced to "reeducation through labor," a form of administrative detention that allows officials to send individuals to such camps for up to three years without trial or formal charges.

After Liu's arrest, friends and family members were not informed of his whereabouts, and CDP members say they only found out what had happened to him when they received news of his sentence in August.

Sentencing papers issued by the Shanghai Reeducation through Labor Committee cited several alleged offenses, including a policy paper and an essay written by Liu that were published under various pen names on the CDP's Web site. The essay focused on the current situation of China's peasants. The committee also accused Liu of trying to form an illegal organization, the "China Democracy Party Joint Headquarters, Second Front."

The journalist previously worked as an editor and reporter for various publications, including the magazine Jishu Jingji Yu Guanli (Technology Economy and Management), run by the Fujian Province Economic and Trade Committee, and Zhongguo Shichang Jingji Bao (China Market Economy News), run by the Central Party School in Beijing.

Beginning in 1999, he worked for Univillage, a research organization focusing on rural democratization, and managed their Web site. He was working as a free-lance journalist at the time of his arrest.

Lu Xinhua, free-lancer IMPRISONED

Lu was arrested in mid-March in Wuhan, Hubei Province, after articles he had written about rural unrest and official corruption appeared on various Internet news sites based overseas. On April 20, he was charged with "inciting to subvert state power," a charge frequently used against journalists who write about politically sensitive subjects. Lu's trial began on September 18. On December 30, Lu was sentenced to four years in prison.

April 3
Guo Qinghai, free-lancer IMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION

Guo was arrested in September 2000 after posting several essays on overseas online bulletin boards calling for political reforms in China. In almost 40 essays posted under the pen name Qing Song, Guo covered a variety of topics, including political prisoners, environmental problems, and corruption. In one essay, Guo discussed the importance of a free press, saying, "Those who oppose lifting media censorship argue that it will negatively influence social stability. But according to what I have seen ... countries that control speech may be able to maintain stability in the short term, but the end result is often violent upheaval, coup d'etats, or war."

Guo, who worked in a bank, also wrote articles for Taiwanese newspapers. He was a friend and classmate of writer Qi Yanchen, who was sentenced to four years in prison on subversion charges just four days after Guo's arrest. One of Guo's last online essays appealed for Qi's release.

On April 3, 2001, Guo was tried on subversion charges by a court in Cangzhou, Hebei Province. On April 26, he was sentenced to four years in prison.

April 8
Wu Jianming, free-lancer IMPRISONED

Wu was detained in the southern city of Shenzhen and investigated on suspicion of spying for Taiwan, according to numerous sources. He was formally charged on May 26.

Until 1986, Wu taught at the Communist Party's Central Party School in Beijing. From 1986 to 1988, he was a reporter at the newspaper Shenzhen Qingnian Bao (Shenzhen Youth Daily). He became a U.S. citizen after moving to the United States in 1988 and has since divided his time between Queens, New York, and Hong Kong.

Wu's writing covered a number of politically sensitive topics. In 1990, for example, he published a book on the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 4, 1989. Printed by a Taiwanese publisher under the title Wangpai Chujin de Zhongnanhai Qiaoju (Zhongnanhai Has Played Its Trump Cards), the book analyzed decisions of senior Communist Party officials during the crisis.

From January 1995 until mid-1999, Wu wrote a column under the pen name Jiang Shan for the Hong Kong-based newspaper Apple Daily. The column discussed Chinese political, economic, and foreign-policy issues, including mainland China-Taiwan relations and the 1989 protest movement. From 1996 to 1997, Wu also served as an editor at the now defunct Hong Kong paper Kuai Bao (Express).

In an August 2 letter to President Jiang Zemin, CPJ urged him to ensure that Wu is given a fair and open trial under international legal standards of due process.

On September 28, before being tried, Wu was suddenly released and deported to the United States. The circumstances behind his release were unknown, but it came just before U.S. president George W. Bush's October 21 visit to China.

May 1
Jiang Weiping, free-lancer IMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION

Jiang, a free-lance reporter, was arrested on December 5, 2000, after publishing a number of articles in the Hong Kong magazine Qianshao (Frontline) that revealed corruption scandals in northeastern China. Jiang wrote the Qianshao articles, which were published between June and September 1999, under various pen names. His coverage exposed several major corruption scandals involving high-level officials. Notably, Jiang reported that Shenyang vice mayor Ma Xiangdong had lost nearly 30 million yuan (US$3.6 million) in public funds gambling in Macau casinos. Jiang also revealed that Daqing mayor Qian Dihua had used public funds to buy apartments for each of his 29 mistresses.

Soon after these cases were publicized in Qianshao and other Hong Kong media, central authorities detained Ma. He was accused of taking bribes, embezzling public funds, and gambling overseas. Ma was executed for these crimes in December 2001. After his arrest, Ma's case was widely reported in the domestic press and used as an example in the government's ongoing fight against corruption.

However, in May 2001, Jiang was indicted on the charge of "revealing state secrets."

An experienced journalist, Jiang had worked until May 2000 as the northeastern China bureau chief for the Hong Kong paper Wen Hui Bao. In the 1980s, he worked as a Dalian-based correspondent for Xinhua News Agency. He contributed free-lance articles to Qianshao, a monthly Chinese-language magazine focusing on mainland affairs.

The Dalian Intermediate Court sentenced Jiang to eight years in prison following a secret trial held on September 5, 2001. On November 20, 2001, CPJ honored Jiang with an International Press Freedom Award.

Wang Jinbo, free-lancer IMPRISONED

Wang, a free-lance journalist, was arrested in early May 2001 for e-mailing essays to overseas organizations arguing that the government should change its official line that the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square were "counterrevolutionary." In October, Wang was formally charged with "inciting to subvert state power." On November 14, the Junan County Court in Shandong Province conducted his closed trial; only the journalists' relatives were allowed to attend. On December 13, Wang was sentenced to four years in prison.

Wang, a member of the banned China Democracy Party, had been detained several times in the past for his political activities. In February, days before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) visited Beijing, he was briefly taken into custody after signing an open letter calling on the IOC to pressure China to release political prisoners. A number of Wang's essays have been posted on various Internet sites. One, titled "My Account of Police Violations of Civil Rights," describes his January 2001 detention, when police interrogated him and held him for 20 hours with no food or heat after he signed an open letter calling for the release of political prisoners.

May 9
Zhu Ruixiang, free-lancer IMPRISONED

Zhu was arrested and charged with subversion after distributing articles via the Internet. Prosecutors accused him of distributing "hostile" materials, including copies of Dacankao (VIP Reference), a Chinese-language, pro-democracy electronic newsletter that Zhu had allegedly e-mailed to several friends, according to U.S.-based sources close to the case.

Dacankao, which is compiled in the United States and e-mailed to more than 1 million addresses in China every day, contains articles from various sources about social and political topics banned from China's tightly controlled domestic media.

Following his September 10 trial, the Shaoyang Municipal Intermediate People's Court signaled its intention to sentence Zhu to a nine-month jail term. However, the Political and Legal Committee of Shaoyang Municipality reviewed the case and insisted that the court impose a more severe sentence. On September 11, Zhu was sentenced to three years in prison.

Zhu, a respected lawyer in Shaoyang City, had previously worked as an editor at a local radio station. He was also the founder and editor-in-chief of the Shaoyang City Radio and Television Journal.

May 18
Hu Dalin, free-lancer IMPRISONED

Hu was arrested four days after posting an essay by his father, Lu Jiaping, on the Internet. The essay, titled "Finally the Official Media Has a Different Voice," praised a newspaper article that criticized China's leaders for being too soft on the United States.

Hu, who runs an art supply business, had created a Web site that featured the political essays of his father, Lu Jiaping. Lu is a 60-year-old, left-leaning intellectual based in Beijing.

According to an account written by his father, nine public security officers arrived at Hu's house on May 18; three of them took Hu to the local precinct while the others searched his house and confiscated his computer, copies of his father's essays, and other materials, including books and letters.

At first, the officers told Hu's fiancée that, according to law, he would be released or his family would be notified within 48 hours. However, when she inquired 48 hours later, officials told her that Hu could not be released because his case concerned state secrets.

Police later told her that Hu was a political criminal who would be held for at least 15 days while they conducted an investigation. The Public Security Bureau did not allow Hu's family to visit him in detention, and they charged his fiancee 320 yuan (about US$40) for his incarceration.

During Hu's interrogation, police officers questioned him about Lu Jiaping's essays, and told him that while his father was allowed to write such essays, he could not post them on the Internet, according to his father's account.

On June 4, Hu Dalin was released after his fiancée paid the detention center a 500 yuan (US$62) fee.

June 1
Qian Gang, Nanfang Zhoumo HARASSED
Chang Ping, Nanfang Zhoumo HARASSED

In early June, Qian and Chang, respectively the deputy editor and front page news editor of the Guangdong-based newspaper Nanfang Zhoumo (Southern Weekend), were demoted from their posts under pressure from the local propaganda bureau, according to a journalist close to the case.

Another editor and a reporter were fired and banned from ever working in journalism again.

The personnel changes came after the newspaper published a report about a criminal gang, led by Hunan Province native Zhang Jun, that killed 28 people in a spree of murder and theft. The piece featured interviews with gang members and their families. The author also analyzed problems such as poverty and other forms of inequality that may have led the gang members to a life of crime.

One of China's most progressive and adventurous newspapers, Nanfang Zhoumo has pushed the boundaries of media control by publishing explicit reports on social problems such as AIDS, crime, and the trafficking of women.

The paper's daring reporting has made it a longtime target of authorities. In January 2000, editor Jiang Yiping was demoted after publishing reports that angered government censors. Qian Gang was hired to replace her.

After the recent personnel crackdown, one employee told the South China Morning Post, "This is a death sentence.... They cannot shut it down but the paper as we know it will no longer exist."

June 14
He Qinglian, Shenzhen Fazhi Bao HARASSED

Chinese journalist He Qinglian fled to the United States after security agents broke into her house in the southern city of Shenzhen.

During a 2000 crackdown on liberal intellectuals, He was demoted from her position as editor of Shenzhen Fazhi Bao (Shenzhen Legal Daily). Afterward, police regularly followed her and tapped her phone. The government also banned He's writing.

He was planning to leave China in late June 2001 to start a sabbatical at the University of Chicago. In April, after she received the official invitation from the university and a U.S. visa, a security agent was assigned to shadow her as she rode the bus to work each day.

In early June, security agents broke into He's apartment in Shenzhen and confiscated her belongings, including invitations to conferences abroad and other personal documents. Because this action followed the arrests of several scholars on charges of spying, she feared that police were planning a case against her and decided to flee the country immediately.

In 1998, He made a name for herself with her book Zhongguo de Xianjing (China's Pitfalls), in which she argued that corruption is endemic to China's political and economic system. Her recent book, Women Rengran Zai Yangwang Xingkong (We Are All Still Gazing at the Stars), criticizes President Jiang Zemin's theory of "Sange Daibiao" (generally translated as "The Three Represents"), which says the Communist Party should represent the advanced forces of production, advanced culture, and grassroots interests.

The book was based on an essay He wrote for Shuwu (Reading Room) magazine in March 2000. After the essay was published, the book was banned and several editors were demoted.

June 15
Liu Weifang, free-lancer IMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION

Liu was arrested sometime after September 26, 2000, when security officials from the Ninth Agricultural Brigade District, in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region came to his house, confiscated his computer, and announced that he was being officially investigated, according to an account that Liu posted on the Internet. Liu's most recent online essay was dated October 20, 2000.

Liu had recently posted a number of essays criticizing China's leaders and political system in Internet chat rooms. The essays, which the author signed either with his real name or with the initials "lgwf," covered topics such as official corruption, development policies in China's western regions, and environmental issues. At press time, the articles were available online at: http://liuweifang.ipfox.com.

"The reasons for my actions are all above-board," Liu wrote in one essay. "They are not aimed at any one person or any organization; rather, they are directed at any behavior in society that harms humanity. The goal is to speed up humanity's progress and development." The official Xinjiang Daily characterized Liu's work as "a major threat to national security."

According to a June 15, 2001, report in the Xinjiang Daily, Liu was sentenced to three years in prison by the Ninth Agricultural Brigade District's Intermediate People's Court. Liu's sentencing was announced amid government attempts to tighten control over the Internet.

June 18
Nanfang Zhoumo Internet forum CENSORED
"Minzhu he Renquan" Internet forum CENSORED
Remen Huati CENSORED

A number of popular online chat rooms were closed for posting comments critical of the government, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy.

A chat room organized by the Guangzhou newspaper Nanfang Zhoumo (Southern Weekend) was closed on June 18 after several users criticized the recent firing of two of the paper's editors for their coverage of organized crime and other sensitive topics.

Another popular Internet forum, "Minzhu he Renquan" (Democracy and Human Rights), operated by a Web site called Xici Hutong, was also closed after users posted more than 100 essays attacking the government's press crackdown. And on June 18, the Internet magazine Remen Huati (Hot Topic), which frequently ran politically controversial articles, ceased publication under severe government pressure, according to the center.

On June 25, an anonymous posting on the Xici Hutong site called on users to respect relevant Internet regulations and refrain from posting "subversive" material.

July 13
Tuomo Pesonen, YLE HARASSED
Janne Niskala, free-lancer HARASSED

Authorities detained Pesonen, the Beijing-based Asia correspondent for YLE, Finland's national public broadcasting company; Niskala, a free-lance cameraman; and their Chinese colleagues while the crew was reporting in an area of northwest Beijing slated to be demolished in preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games. (The Chinese nationals did not want to disclose their identities.)

Pesonen told CPJ that he and his crew were ordered not to film in the area or talk to residents and were brought to a police station for questioning. While they were detained, Pesonen called his station on his cell phone and gave a live report. The crew was released after about an hour and told to leave the area.

The journalists were detained just hours before the International Olympic Committee officially announced it had selected Beijing as host for the 2008 Games. In making their Olympic bid, Beijing officials pledged to give the media complete freedom to report when they come to China.

July 19
William Foreman, The Associated Press HARASSED

Foreman, Taipei bureau chief for The Associated Press, was detained and questioned for a day when he traveled to the town of Mafang, in mainland China's Shaanxi Province, to investigate a bomb explosion that killed at least 69 people.

While interviewing farmers in a neighboring village, Foreman was detained by police in a noodle restaurant. After about four hours, he was taken to a hotel in the nearby city of Yulin, where police confiscated the photos he had taken in Mafang. He was held until about 7 p.m. The next morning, police escorted him to the airport.

Upon his release, Foreman was forced to sign a statement acknowledging that he had violated Chinese law by traveling to Mafang without official permission. Chinese law requires foreign correspondents to register with provincial foreign affairs offices before reporting outside of Beijing, but permission is rarely granted to visit the scenes of violent or otherwise sensitive incidents.

August 8
All journalists CENSORED

The Chinese government announced on national television that publications could be summarily closed down for reporting on any one of seven proscribed topics, known as the "Seven No's."

The policy banned all press reports that:

1. Negate the guiding role of Marxism, Mao Zedong Thought, or Deng Xiaoping Theory;

2. Oppose the guiding principles, official line, or policies of the Communist Party;

3. Reveal state secrets, damage national security, or harm national interests;

4. Oppose official policies regarding minority nationalities and religion, or harm national unity and affect social stability;

5. Advocate murder, violence, obscenity, superstition, or pseudo-science;

6. Spread rumors or falsified news, or interfere in the work of the party and government;

7. Violate party propaganda discipline, or national publishing and advertising regulations.

Government authorities first communicated the seven banned topics to Chinese editors in January, but the August 8 announcement marked the first public acknowledgment of the policy.

Authorities also progressively stiffened penalties for violating the bans. In January, editors were told that offending publications would receive a warning. After the first warning, editors could be dismissed. After repeated warnings, the publication could be closed down.

In June, media outlets received copies of an internal government document announcing that publications could be closed immediately for violating the ban.

In the August 8 announcement, the central government upped the ante yet again by warning that any province, autonomous region, or municipality in which two or more newspapers are closed down for violating one of these stipulations will not be allowed to launch any new publications in the following year.

August 14
Huang Qi, Tianwang Web site IMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION

Huang Qi published the Tianwang Web site (www.6-4tianwang.com), which featured articles about pro-democracy activism in China, the independence movement in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, and the banned spiritual group Falun Gong. He was arrested on June 3, 2000, and later charged with subversion.

The Chengdu Intermediate Court in Sichuan Province held a secret trial on August 14, 2001. Family members were not allowed to attend, and no verdict or sentencing date was released. However, in China, criminal cases brought to trial usually result in a guilty verdict. The charges against Huang Qi carry a punishment of up to 10 years in prison. Huang's trial was postponed several times throughout 2001 in an apparent effort to deflect international attention from China's human rights practices during the country's campaign to host the 2008 Olympic Games. Two of the trial delays – on February 23 and June 27 – coincided with important dates in Beijing's Olympics bid.

September 12
All journalists CENSORED

The day after the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., the Chinese government directed all media, including Internet portals, to refrain from publishing anti-American statements, according to international news reports.

A few days later, on September 16, the Central Propaganda Department issued another directive ordering all domestic news organizations to refrain from publishing commentaries expressing support for either the United States or the terrorists.

"We are supposed to report the facts only," a journalist told the South China Morning Post. "Anything with value judgment such as condemning the terrorists or supporting the Americans to retaliate is prohibited."

Detailed background on terrorist activities, including how the September 11 attacks were prepared, was also banned.

Commentators speculated that the measures were intended to give the Chinese government room to formulate its own foreign policy in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

October 17
Lam Chiu-wing, Radio Television Hong Kong HARASSED

Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa reprimanded Lam, host of the satirical television talk show "Headliner" on the public Radio Television Hong Kong, after he jokingly compared Tung's administration to the Taliban. After the incident, senior producers of the show were required to vet all scripts, a change from earlier practice.

The Broadcasting Authority, a government body responsible for complaints against broadcast media, issued a statement that "Headliner," which is considered a "current affairs program and not classified as a Personal View Program, should observe the provisions governing impartiality."

The Hong Kong Journalists Association replied that as a satirical program, "Headliner" was not subject to journalistic standards of impartiality.

Pro-Beijing officials had recently renewed pressure on RTHK, which they believe should present only official Chinese views. Following Tung's comments, Ma Lik, a deputy to mainland China's National People's Congress, said: "Enough is enough. It's time for the Government to spell out the role of RTHK to the public. The Government should disband it if it no longer has a role to explain government policies."

HONG KONG

Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, hand-picked by Beijing to run the territory, told the World Association of Newspapers at its annual congress that, "The current leadership in China is one of the most enlightened and progressive in our history." However, after four years of Chinese rule, many of Hong Kong's civil liberties, including press freedom, continued to erode as Beijing took steps to consolidate its power over local politics.

In January, Anson Chan, head of the civil service and one of Hong Kong's staunchest defenders of a free press, resigned. Chan's departure, which came a year and a half before her term expired, surprised most in Hong Kong, although Beijing officials had warned her repeatedly to tone down her independent views. Chinese vice premier Qian Qichen told Chan in September 2000 that if she could not give "better support" to Tung, she should retire, according to a report in the Far Eastern Economic Review. Without Chan as a defense, the Hong Kong government will be far more susceptible to pressure from the mainland to crack down on civil liberties, including press freedom.

Pro-Beijing officials renewed pressure this year on the public broadcaster, Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), which they believe should serve as a conduit for Chinese government views. In October, Chief Executive Tung reprimanded Lam Chiu-wing, host of RTHK's satirical talk show "Headliner," after he made a joke comparing Tung's administration to the Taliban. After the incident, senior producers at the station were required to vet his program's script, a change from earlier practice.

The Hong Kong Press Council, an industry organization founded in 2000 and designed to encourage the media to regulate itself, expanded its powers this year when it began accepting complaints against media sensationalism. However, only member newspapers are required to abide by council rulings. The council also introduced a draft bill to change its current status as a company into a "statutory body with qualified privilege," making it immune from libel lawsuits when it publicly criticizes publications. Many local journalists opposed the move.

Copyright notice: © Committee to Protect Journalists. All rights reserved. Articles may be reproduced only with permission from CPJ.

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