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Attacks on the Press in 1996 - China

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1997
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1996 - China, February 1997, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c564fd21.html [accessed 27 December 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.

While China's commitment to market reforms remains firmly in place, the Communist Party has signaled a desire to retreat to the rhetoric of Maoist ideology on social and political issues. At its sixth annual plenum, the party endorsed a resolution to tighten its grip on ideology and social control as part of a broad-ranging crusade to revive traditional socialist values. It ordered government agencies, social institutions, and state-run enterprises to subscribe to party publications. At the same time, Xu Guanchuan, the deputy head of the Propaganda Department, called for a crackdown on unauthorized publications and the closure of any publications defying the party line. Xu's directive was a clear signal of official intolerance toward an independent press, and a reminder that the media's only role is to be the party's mouthpiece.

Feverish activity at China's nascent Shangai and Shenzhen stock markets, coupled with the dearth of economic information in the state-owned press, has fueled the growth of several independent stock market newsletters. The official daily Renmin Ribao carried a strident denunciation of the newsletters, blaming the wildly overheated market on their sanguine predictions.

As part of its bid to further control the distribution of information, China blocked access to a large number of Internet sites run by Chinese and English-language media outlets. The government warned the domestic media not to cover sensitive issues, such as corruption scandals involving party officials and the arrest of dissidents such as Wang Dan, who received an 11-year prison sentence for plotting to overthrow the government. They could carry only reports issued by the official Xinhua News Agency.

These developments caused consternation among the Hong Kong media, who remain fearful for the prospects for press freedom after China assumes sovereignty from Britain in July 1997. Anxiety about the future of press freedom has given rise to self-censorship among members of the Hong Kong press seeking to avoid angering the Beijing government and incurring possible repercussions after sovereignty passes to China.

March 4
Jin Zhong, Open Magazine, EXPELLED

Jin, the editor of the Hong Kong-based Open Magazine, said in a newspaper interview in Hong Kong that Chinese immigration officials had revoked his permit to enter Shenzhen, a city in mainland China near Hong Kong. Jin said he was detained by immigration police on his way to visit relatives in Shenzhen. After keeping him in a room for 90 minutes, the immigration police told him he was not welcome to return to Shenzhen. Open Magazine, published since 1987, is known for its critical coverage of China's policies.

March 10
Shui An-teh, Taiwan Television Enterprise (TTV), HARASSED, EXPELLED
Chuang Chi-wei, TTV, HARASSED, EXPELLED

Chinese authorities deported the TTV reporters Shui and Chuang after detaining them for two days for allegedly videotaping Chinese troops conducting military exercises in southeastern Fujian Province. According to China's official Xinhua News Agency, the two journalists signed written confessions of their wrongdoing, a usual condition of release for foreign journalists detained in China. Upon arriving in Hong Kong, however, both reporters said they were unaware that they had been taping in a restricted area and maintained that they were engaged in ordinary reporting activities. In a press release, CPJ said Shui and Chuang's detention fit a pattern of continued harassment by China of Taiwanese journalists.

June 4
Chito Romana, ABC News, HARASSED, CENSORED
Richard Tullis, ABC News, HARASSED, CENSORED

Beijing Security Police detained ABC News producer Romana and cameraman Tullis as they drove around Beijing University, filming the campus. Romana and Tullis, who were held for two hours, were forced to erase the footage they had shot. The detention of the television journalists came on the seventh anniversary of the military assault on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. The demonstrations began in the Beijing University area.

July 1
Louis Wong, South China Morning Post, HARASSED
Journalist, Oriental Daily News, HARASSED, EXPELLED
Journalist, Hong Kong Standard, HARASSED
Journalist, Apple Daily, HARASSED
Journalist, Asia Television, HARASSED
Journalist, Hong Kong Daily News, HARASSED
19 other journalists, HARASSED

Chinese police detained 25 journalists at Beijing's international airport, where the journalists were attempting to cover the arrival in Beijing of eight Hong Kong legislators. The legislators had planned to deliver a petition to the Chinese government protesting China's plans to scrap the elected Hong Kong Legislative Council after the July 1997 handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China. Beijing police boarded a Dragonair flight from Hong Kong that was carrying the legislators and 12 of the 25 journalists. The police expelled all the legislators and one journalist, who works for the Oriental Daily News in Hong Kong. The other journalists who were aboard the plane were allowed to disembark. But they and a number of journalists who were already in the airport to cover the legislators' trip were detained on the tarmac, at the immigration counter, or inside the airport terminal. Immigration officials forced several of the journalists to sign statements of "repentance" after the officials found that they were carrying press releases and other documents issued by the Hong Kong legislators' coalition.

July 8
Voice of Tibet (VOT), CENSORED

Chinese authorities began jamming VOT, an exiled Tibetan radio station produced in Oslo and broadcast from the Seychelles since May 14. China Radio International began occupying VOT's bandwidth with Easy FM, an English-language music service. China Radio International until July 8 had been a domestic service and had never broadcast on a short-wave frequency. To avoid the jamming, VOT July 22 started transmitting on a different short-wave frequency, and since then authorities have not attempted to disrupt the service again. Easy FM continues to be broadcast on the old VOT frequency.

Late August
CNN, CENSORED
The Washington Post, CENSORED
The New York Times, CENSORED
Wall Street Journal, CENSORED
Los Angeles Times, CENSORED
Voice of America, CENSORED
Time, CENSORED
Ming Pao, CENSORED
China Digest News, CENSORED

Chinese authorities blocked access to a number of Internet sites run by Chinese- and English-language media organizations. Among those affected were Internet sites operated by CNN, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, Voice of America, and Time magazine. Several Chinese-language news sites run from outside China, including China Digest News and the Hong Kong-based daily newspaper Ming Pao, have also been screened out. These moves followed a government announcement in February that laws against pornography, social disturbances, and state security breaches applied to the Internet, and that all Internet servers must operate through the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, which controls China's two gateways to the Internet.

October 30
Wang Dan, IMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION

Wang, a former student leader, pro-democracy activist, and frequent contributor to overseas publications was sentenced to 11 years in prison for conspiring to subvert the government. He had already been in detention at an undisclosed location since May 1995. Wang's offenses consisted of publishing articles in the overseas press that were deemed objectionable by Beijing and receiving donations from overseas human rights groups. Foreign reporters were barred from the courtroom during his trial, and the domestic press was prohibited from reporting on the trial. On Nov. 10, the Beijing Higher People's Court took 10 minutes to reject his appeal. He was immediately sent to a prison in remote Jinzhou, in Liaoning province, 500 kilometers northeast of Beijing. Wang had previously been jailed for three-and-a-half years after he led pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

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

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