Last Updated: Monday, 18 December 2017, 09:48 GMT

Attacks on the Press in 2003 - China [including Hong Kong]

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 2004
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 2003 - China [including Hong Kong], February 2004, available at: [accessed 19 December 2017]
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.

With the commercialization of the press, the rapid spread of the Internet, and international condemnation of a government cover-up of the SARS virus, the new administration of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao faced a series of tests over government censorship policies in 2003. Although Hu initially called for the press to take on a more active watchdog role in society when he took power in March, by year's end, he had confirmed that stringent government control over the media would remain the status quo.

As 2003 began, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus was spreading across southern China, generating what would soon become an international health crisis. The local propaganda bureau in Guangdong Province, where the virus first appeared, initially banned journalists from reporting on the illness. According to press reports, by early February, Guangdong authorities had notified central officials of the epidemic. Yet as it spread to Hong Kong and throughout the world, Beijing continued to deny its severity.

In the run-up to the annual March meeting of the National People's Congress, which formally transferred power to Hu and Wen, propaganda officials banned all negative reporting, including news about SARS. In mid-March, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued travel warnings for Hong Kong and southern China. The government ordered the media not to report the warning, and three days later, Chinese Health Minister Zhang Wenkang announced at a press conference that, "SARS has been placed under effective control."

In early April, whistle-blower Jiang Yanyong, a doctor at a Beijing military hospital, exposed the prevalence of SARS cases in Beijing to the international media, escalating pressure on the government to acknowledge the crisis. On April 17, President Hu admitted the SARS cover-up to the powerful Politburo and called for immediate and forceful action to fight the disease. Three days later, Health Minister Zhang and Beijing Mayor Meng Xuenong were fired for their role in the cover-up. By the time the epidemic abated in July, 774 people had died in 11 countries, including 349 in mainland China and 299 in Hong Kong, according to the WHO.

Following the government's delayed but candid response to SARS, many observers believed that China's leaders had learned an important lesson about the dangers of information control. But this optimism was tempered when authorities continued to censor stories about a number of sensitive issues, including AIDS, labor unrest, the retirement of outgoing Premier Zhu Rongji, a wave of violent crime, North Korean refugees, and popular protests in Hong Kong against proposed anti-subversion legislation.

In March, Ershiyi Shiji Huanqiu Baodao (21st Century World Herald), a newspaper owned by the Nanfang Daily Group, was suspended after it ran an interview with Mao Zedong's former secretary Li Rui, who criticized the current political system and called for reforms. The paper, which had run stories about SARS and other sensitive topics, gained instant popularity when it was launched in May 2002. Authorities also continued the ongoing assault on Nanfang Zhoumo (Southern Weekend), another Nanfang Daily Group newspaper, which was China's most progressive and daring paper before a crackdown in 2001 in which top editors were dismissed. One month after the 21st Century World Herald was suspended, Zhang Dongming, an official from the Guangdong Propaganda Bureau, was installed as editor-in-chief of Southern Weekend as part of an officially mandated restructuring of the Nanfang Daily Group.

The government initiated far-reaching media reforms in 2003 by instituting regulations requiring all publications to earn at least 50 percent of their revenue from voluntary subscriptions. These reforms dealt a huge blow to the hundreds of government publications that had subsisted on mandatory subscriptions that government offices required of civil servants and party cadres. In November, authorities closed 673 unprofitable official newspapers and made 87 more free of charge, according to official press reports. Journalists will thus find themselves increasingly caught between readers' demands for aggressive reporting and propaganda officials' demands for whitewashed news.

The new commercial pressures on the media have already yielded positive results for journalists, seen in the unprecedented coverage of the United States' military action in Iraq in the spring. Television stations fed live broadcasts from Baghdad and launched a new 24-hour news program on China Central Television. Newspaper reporters were embedded with U.S. troops; in total, about 100 Chinese journalists were sent to Iraq to cover the war. That was a stark contrast to the 1991 Gulf War, which was mentioned briefly at the end of the nightly news broadcast. Only one Chinese journalist, from the official Xinhua News Agency, reported from Iraq during the Gulf War.

During the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, Chinese TV stations had to wait to broadcast the breaking news until they had received official sanction, so viewers turned to the Internet or overseas publications for information. In 2003, media owners didn't want to lose out again to online or foreign competitors, and the government, which officially owns all media, did not object. Chinese journalists attributed the change in official attitude to increased tolerance for more open reporting about issues in which China is not directly involved. One Chinese reporter told Agence France-Presse, "The guidelines are that if it doesn't concern China directly you can go with it, but if it concerns the Chinese government you still have to toe the official line."

The humanitarian plight of North Korean refugees in China proved to be an example of the latter. The Chinese government treats the refugees – who cross the border by the thousands to escape food shortages and political repression at home – as economic migrants and regularly repatriates them to North Korea. The issue has become thornier for Beijing in recent years, with refugees and their supporters staging well-publicized raids of foreign embassies in efforts to claim asylum. Journalists who try to document these asylum attempts face harassment or arrest. Jae Hyun Seok, a South Korean freelance photographer who worked regularly for The New York Times, was arrested in January while filming a group of North Korean refugees attempting to flee China by boat for South Korea and Japan. In May, he was sentenced to two years in prison on charges of "human trafficking." In August, South Korean journalists Kim Seung Jin and Geum Myeong Seok were also arrested while documenting refugees' attempts to enter a school run by the Japanese government in Shanghai. They were released and deported three weeks later.

Jae Hyun Seok was one of 39 journalists imprisoned in China at year's end, and the only foreigner on that list. Six journalists – Jiang Qisheng, Wang Daqi, Qi Yanchen, Liu Di, Kang Yuchun, and An Jun – were released in 2003. Seven more were arrested: Seok and six Internet essayists – Luo Yongzhong, Du Daobin, Luo Changfu, Yan Jun, Cai Lujun, and Kong Youping. Prolonged international and domestic pressure to release imprisoned journalists helped in some cases. Internet essayist Liu Di was freed before being formally charged, and, in a rare move, the Liaoning Provincial Higher Court reduced the eight-year sentence of journalist Jiang Weiping to six years on appeal. Jiang was arrested in 2000 for his reporting on high-profile corruption cases in northeast China and received CPJ's International Press Freedom Award in 2001. He is now eligible for parole.

Local officials and private citizens implicated in investigative media reports increasingly use physical force to threaten and intimidate journalists. In November, the official press reported that journalism had become the third most dangerous career in China, following coal mining and police work. In December, Fazhi Ribao (Legal Daily) published a report titled "Journalists' right to report challenged," which documented 11 attacks on reporters throughout 2003. In one of these incidents, in August, security guards at the Jiangsu Provincial Education Bureau beat eight journalists who tried to attend a private meeting there. One of the journalists told Southern Weekend that it was the third time in a year he had been violently attacked for his reporting. While journalists' demands for laws to protect their "right to report" have gone unheeded, beleaguered reporters scored a victory in June, when two assailants who had attacked Jinghua Shibao (Beijing Times) reporter Yang Wei in 2002 were sentenced to one year in prison. According to a report on the Renmin Ribao (People's Daily) Web site, the arrest marked the first time an assailant was convicted for attacking a journalist in Beijing.

The Internet played an increasingly important role for independent writers, academics, and others whose opinions the traditional media did not welcome. In several cases, online exposure of stories about crime, corruption, and industrial accidents pressured the mainstream media into reporting on previously taboo topics. With 78 million people online in China by year's end, the government faced an uphill battle in controlling Internet speech, with Web users becoming more adept and forceful in defending their right to free expression. Nevertheless, officials continued to use sophisticated technology, require Internet Service Providers and cybercafé owners to censor clients, and threaten imprisonment to control online activities. Several especially outspoken Internet writers were targeted for arrest in 2003. Liu Di, a college student in Beijing who was arrested in November 2002, spent more than a year in incommunicado detention after writing a series of sarcastic essays advocating political and social reforms in China. Her case became a cause célèbre among Chinese Internet users around the world, and on November 28, 2003, authorities released her on bail.

In October authorities arrested Du Daobin, one of China's most prominent and well-respected Internet essayists, who led an online movement demanding Liu's release. He was charged with "subversion" but had not been tried by year's end. More than 1,000 of his supporters – including mainstream journalists, lawyers, academics, and others – signed open letters to Premier Wen demanding his release and the right to free expression, which the Chinese Constitution guarantees.

Hong Kong

Journalists and citizens in Hong Kong scored an unprecedented victory in 2003 by overturning government plans to implement legislation that would have outlawed subversion.

Throughout 2003, Hong Kong journalists reported aggressively on the raging debates over the proposed legislation, as well as on the SARS epidemic, which killed 299 people in the territory. Both issues helped embolden the territory's media, which have occasionally been criticized in the past for practicing self-censorship and tailoring reporting to cater to corporate or political interests.

In February, the Beijing-backed government in Hong Kong introduced draft legislation outlawing sedition, subversion, secession, and the theft of state secrets, as required under Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-constitution. The draft, which was submitted after a three-month "public consultation" period, ignored many concerns raised by critics that the proposed legislation seriously threatened press freedom. The government also ignored calls for a "White Bill" that the public could review and amend before submission to the Legislative Council.

A broad spectrum of Hong Kong society – including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Hong Kong Bar Association, journalists, librarians, lawyers, legislators, banking officials, and religious figures – rallied against the law and staged public protests opposing its passage by the Legislative Council, of which only 24 of 60 members are directly elected by the public.

Anger over Article 23 fueled widespread discontent over the administration of Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa and his handling of the economy and the SARS crisis. The public's dissatisfaction peaked in a protest march on the sixth anniversary of the July 1, 1997, handover of the territory to China from the United Kingdom. The demonstration, which was expected to attract 100,000 people, drew a crowd of 500,000 – the largest march in Hong Kong since 1989, when hundreds of thousands of people gathered to protest the military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing.

In late July, Security Minister Regina Ip resigned, citing personal reasons, after becoming a target of anti-Article 23 protesters for her uncompromising support of the legislation. In a matter of days, Tung announced that he had withdrawn the proposed legislation "to allow sufficient time for the community to study the enactment question." The government is expected to reintroduce the bill in the future, but Tung has not yet announced a timetable or specific plans to involve the public in the process.

Hong Kong citizens have been galvanized by this issue, and in District Council elections in November, a record number of voters turned out to support the opposition Democratic Party, which had led the protests against Article 23. The movement's momentum carried through to the year's end, with citizens escalating calls for a more representative government and greater democracy.

2003 Documented Cases – China

JANUARY 1, 2003

Tao Haidong, freelance

In early January, the Urumqi Intermediate Court sentenced Tao, an Internet essayist and pro-democracy activist, to seven years in prison. Tao was arrested on July 9, 2002, in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, and charged with "incitement to subvert state power." According to the Minzhu Luntan (Democracy Forum) Web site, which had published Tao's recent writing, his articles focused on political and legal reform. In one essay, titled "Strategies for China's Social Reforms," Tao wrote that "the Chinese Communist Party and democracy activists throughout society should unite to push forward China's freedom and democratic development or else stand condemned through the ages."

Previously, in 1999, Tao was sentenced to three years of "re-education through labor" in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, according to the New York­based advocacy group Human Rights in China, because of his essays and his work on a book titled Xin Renlei Shexiang (Imaginings of a New Human Race). After his early release in 2001, Tao began writing essays and articles and publishing them on various domestic and overseas Web sites.

JANUARY 17, 2003
Updated: March 30, 2004

Jae Hyun Seok, freelance

On January 17, 2003, freelance photojournalist Seok was arrested by Chinese police while photographing two groups of about 60 North Korean refugees in Yantai, Shandong Province, who were trying to board two fishing boats bound for Cheju Island, South Korea, and Sasebo Island, Japan. Officers also arrested the refugees and a South Korean aid worker.

Seok, a South Korean national, was filming the boatlift as part of a journalistic project documenting the plight of North Korean refugees in China, according to his friends and colleagues who spoke with him shortly before he was arrested. Seok regularly works for The New York Times and other publications but was working independently at the time of his arrest.

Soon after his arrest, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson acknowledged that two South Koreans were detained with the refugees, but she did not confirm their identities. "They are suspected of smuggling or organizing smuggling activities and now are in criminal detention," she said.

On May 22, Seok was sentenced to a two-year prison term on charges of human trafficking by a court in Yantai.

On December 19, a court in Shandong Province rejected an appeal filed by Seok and upheld his original two-year sentence on human trafficking charges. The appeal hearing, which was originally set for June, was postponed until mid-July and then further delayed without explanation. According to CPJ sources, while in prison, Seok has suffered from a skin infection on his face, as well as other medical problems.

On March 19, 2004, Seok was released from prison and flew home to Seoul, South Korea, the same day. In a March 18 press conference, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Kong Quan confirmed Seok's imminent release, saying that the move came in response to repeated requests from the South Korean government. He also added that, "This measure absolutely does not change the fact of [Jae Hyun Seok's] crime." The charges against Seok have not been dropped.

Upon his arrival in South Korea, Seok was briefly hospitalized for treatment of frostbite in his hands and malnourishment.

In recent years, hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have fled to China to escape severe food shortages and political repression. China considers the refugees economic migrants and regularly repatriates them to North Korea, where they often face imprisonment or other types of persecution. As part of the Chinese government's crackdown on North Korean refugees, authorities have harassed journalists who report on their plight.

FEBRUARY 21, 2003

Cai Lujun, freelance

Cai was arrested at his home in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province. In October 2003, the Shijiazhuang Intermediate People's Court sentenced him to three years in prison on charges of subversion.

Cai, 35, had used pen names to write numerous essays distributed online calling for political reforms. His articles included "Political Democracy Is the Means; A Powerful Country and Prosperous Citizenry Is the Goal," "An Outline for Building and Governing the Country," and "The Course of Chinese Democracy."

Following the November 2002 arrest of Internet essayist Liu Di, Cai Lujun began to publish online essays under his own name calling for Liu's release and expressing his political views. (Liu was released on November 28, 2003.)

MARCH 13, 2003

Luo Changfu, freelance

Public security officials arrested Luo from his home in Chongqing municipality and charged him with "subversion." On November 6, 2003, the Chongqing Number One Intermediate Court sentenced him to three years in prison.

Luo, 40, is an unemployed factory worker. Before his arrest, he had actively campaigned for the release of Internet essayist Liu Di, who was arrested in November 2002 and released on bail a year later. Luo had written a series of articles calling for Liu's release and protesting the Chinese government's censorship of online speech. His essays also called for political reforms in China.

In the 1980s, Luo was sent to a re-education-through-labor camp for three years for his dissident activities, according to the New York-based organization Human Rights in China.

MARCH 13, 2003

21st Century World Herald

Propaganda officials suspended publication of the weekly newspaper 21st Century World Herald, dismissed several top editors and reporters, and ordered the staff to attend political training sessions.

The crackdown on the paper followed the publication on March 3 of an interview with Li Rui, Chairman Mao's former secretary. In the interview, Li called for political reforms and strengthened rule of law and criticized the policies of China's late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping. The same issue also carried an article by Beijing intellectual Yu Jie that supported America's position in the war against Iraq.

The 21st Century World Herald was launched in July 2002 and has a circulation of about 300,000. It quickly developed a reputation for publishing reports on political topics that challenged the government's censorship restrictions. It is a sister publication of Southern Weekend, which propaganda officers have repeatedly targeted in recent years for its investigative reports on social and political issues.

The suspension order came just before the annual National People's Congress meetings, which marked the formal transfer of presidential powers from Jiang Zemin to Hu Jintao. Newspaper staff believed that the suspension would be a temporary measure, though publication has not yet resumed.

APRIL 2003

Yan Jun, freelance

Yan disappeared in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, in April 2003, and his family members did not know his whereabouts until May 9, when public security officials notified them that Yan had been charged with subversion.

On December 8, 2003, the Xi'an Intermediate People's Court sentenced Yan to two years in prison in a trial that lasted 20 minutes, his mother said.

Yan, a high school biology teacher, had published several essays online advocating political reforms, freedom of expression, and a free press. His articles also called for the release of Zhao Ziyang, the former general secretary of the Communist Party who has been under house arrest in Beijing since he expressed support for pro-democracy demonstrators in 1989, according to the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy. He also expressed support for independent labor unions and workers' rights. Yan had created a Web site where he posted his writing.

In July 2003, Yan's mother told journalists that he had been sent to the hospital after being beaten in prison.

APRIL 21, 2003

Yang Zili, Yangzi's Garden of Ideas Xu Wei, Xiaofei Ribao
Jin Haike, freelance
Zhang Honghai, freelance

The Beijing Intermediate Court reopened trial proceedings against Xu, Jin, Yang, and Zhang. On May 28, the court sentenced Xu and Jin to 10 years in prison on subversion charges. Yang and Zhang were sentenced to eight years on similar charges.

On March 13, 2001, Xu, a reporter for Xiaofei Ribao (Consumer Daily); Jin, a geologist and writer; Yang, a writer for the Web site "Yangzi's Garden of Ideas" and computer engineer; and Zhang, a freelance writer, were detained and later charged with subversion. The four men were participants in the "Xin Qingnian Xuehui" (New Youth Study Group), an informal gathering of individuals who explored topics related to political reform, economic inequalities, and rural issues. They used the Internet to circulate relevant articles.

On September 28, 2001, the Beijing Intermediate Court initiated legal proceedings against the four men. During the trial, prosecutors focused predominately on the group's writings, including two essays circulated online, titled "What's to be Done?" and "Be a new citizen, reform China." These articles were cited as evidence of the group's intention "to overthrow the Chinese Communist Party's leadership and the socialist system and subvert the regime of the people's democratic dictatorship," according to indictment papers filed against the four.

The case was subsequently stalled until April 21, 2003, when the Beijing Intermediate Court reopened the trial. The lawyers for the four men have argued that the delay in issuing a verdict in the case violated China's Criminal Procedure Law, which stipulates that a court must pronounce judgment within six weeks after accepting a case. Xu, Jin, Yang, and Zhang were detained for more than two years without being convicted of any crime.

According to Human Rights in China, a New York­based advocacy group, all four men have suffered harsh treatment in custody because of their refusal to admit guilt, and Xu has been subjected to beatings and electric shock. On May 28, Xu went on a hunger strike to protest his conviction and ill treatment in custody.

MAY 9, 2003

Huang Qi, Tianwang

The Chengdu Intermediate Court in Sichuan Province sentenced Huang, an Internet publisher, to five years in prison and one subsequent year without "political rights." Huang was sentenced under Articles 69, 103, and 105 of the Criminal Law, which cover the crimes of "splitting the country" and subversion. By the time of the court's verdict, Huang had already spent nearly three years in prison.

Huang was arrested on June 3, 2000, and later charged with subversion for articles published on the Tianwang Web site (, which he founded with his wife, Zeng Li. On August 14, 2001, the Chengdu Intermediate Court held a closed trial after postponing the trial date several times. Huang, 40, was the first Internet publisher to be prosecuted in China for his work, according to CPJ's records.

Huang and his wife had launched the Tianwang Web site from Chengdu in 1998 as a missing-persons search service. Gradually, people began posting articles about a variety of topics on public forums hosted by the site. In sentencing papers, prosecutors listed a number of articles posted on the site as evidence against Huang, including reports about the independence movement in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, the banned spiritual group Falun Gong, and the June 4, 1989, military crackdown on peaceful demonstrators in the capital, Beijing. One essay was titled "June 4 Was Not an 'Incident' or a 'Disturbance,' It Was a Massacre."

In December 1999, Huang published an investigative report about labor abuses committed against workers whom the Sichuan provincial government had sent abroad. While several domestic newspapers subsequently investigated and ran stories on the case, authorities in Chengdu began threatening Huang and repeatedly interrogated him about his reporting.

Following his arrest, Huang waited for more than a year before a court heard his case. Authorities postponed his trial 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.)

The Chengdu Intermediate Court held a secret trial on August 14, 2001. Family members were not allowed to attend, and no verdict or sentencing date was released. Huang's family also was not notified of the May 2003 sentencing hearing, and Zeng Li only learned of her husband's conviction after calling the court herself.

On May 18, Huang appealed his sentence, pointing out that the Chinese Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and of the press. Huang was also denied his most basic due process rights. In violation of China's Criminal Procedure Law, Huang was held for more than a year before being tried. Subsequently, the court waited almost two years after his trial to announce a sentence, although Chinese law stipulates that a court must hand down a verdict within six weeks of accepting a case. Furthermore, Huang's wife and young son have not been able to visit or communicate with him since his arrest, although the Prison Law mandates family visits.

Huang has been beaten in custody and tried to commit suicide, according to an open letter he wrote from prison in February 2001 that was published on Tianwang. Fan Jun, Huang's lawyer, told journalists after the sentencing that there were "definitely problems" with the legal process and that "the verdict was unjust." According to the text of Huang's appeal, which was posted on Tianwang, he maintains that he has not broken any law and that, "History will in the end prove my innocence."

JUNE 4, 2003

All journalists
Beijing Xinbao

Sometime in mid-June, Beijing Xinbao (Beijing New Times), which is run by the national newspaper Workers' Daily, was closed and its editors were fired, according to news reports. The crackdown on the paper came shortly after an article, titled "Seven Disgusting Things in China," which criticized the government, ran in the paper's June 4 edition.

Beijing Xinbao's closure came while the Central Propaganda Bureau held a meeting during which officials outlined several topics that the media are not allowed to independently report, including negative reactions to the SARS epidemic, several high-profile corruption cases, and the North Korean nuclear crisis, according to press reports. At the meeting, propaganda officials named several popular publications that had "violated media discipline," including Caijing (Finance and Economics) magazine, Strategy and Management magazine, China Economic Times, and Beijing Xinbao.

Soon after the meeting, the June 20 issue of Caijing was not distributed to newsstands. Several media reports stated that the government had ordered a ban on distribution after the magazine had published a number of articles about sensitive topics, including the corruption investigation involving Shanghai tycoon Zhou Zhengyi. However, Caijing editor Hu Shuli denied these rumors and said that the failure to distribute the bimonthly was due to "logistical problems." The issue appeared on the magazine's Web site and was sent to subscribers.

JUNE 13, 2003

Luo Yongzhong, freelance

Luo, who has written numerous articles that have been distributed online, was detained on June 14 in Changchun, Jilin Province. On July 7, he was formally arrested. On October 14, the Changchun Intermediate Court sentenced him to three years in prison and two years without political rights upon his release, which is scheduled for June 13, 2006.

In sentencing papers, which have been widely distributed online, the court stated that between May and June 2003, Luo wrote several essays that "attacked the socialist system, incited to subvert state power, and created a negative influence on society." Several specific articles were cited as evidence, including "At last we see the danger of the Three Represents!"-a reference to a political theory formulated by former President Jiang Zemin, and "Tell today's youth the truth about June 4," a reference to the military crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy protesters in June 1989. According to the court papers, the articles were published on online forums including Shuijing Luntan (Crystal) Web site.

Luo, who has a crippled leg, has also written a number of articles advocating the rights of disabled people.

JUNE 30, 2003


CNN's broadcast into mainland China was blocked for about 20 seconds during an interview with opposition Hong Kong lawmaker Emily Lau, a critic of a controversial Hong Kong antisubversion bill – known as Article 23 – which journalists feared would severely limit press freedom in the territory.

The next day, several reports featuring video footage of anti­Article 23 protests were also censored, according to CNN's Beijing bureau. The selective blocking of foreign news broadcasts is a common phenomenon in China, made possible by the fact that all foreign signals are required to pass through a Chinese-controlled satellite and are thus visible to censors several seconds before they reach viewers' television screens. This process does not affect broadcasts into Hong Kong.

JULY 1, 2003

Frederic Bobin, Le Monde
Kjersti Strommen, NRK

Police in Beijing detained Bobin, Beijing-based correspondent for the French newspaper Le Monde, and Strommen, Asia correspondent for the Norwegian broadcaster NRK, while the journalists attempted to cover a labor protest by employees of the state-run Friendship Store. Police held the two for more than an hour, along with an unidentified Hong Kong journalist. Police asked the journalists to hand over their video footage but did not search them. Bobin and Strommen refused to sign a prepared statement, written in Chinese. Instead, the two signed an agreement not to publish or broadcast coverage that may harm China's diplomatic relations.

Bobin later filed a story about the protest for Le Monde, mentioning the journalists' detention, and Strommen broadcast her video footage of the demonstration that evening.

AUGUST 1, 2003

Gao Aiping, Nanjing Chenbao
Huang Xiaoming, Nanjing Chenbao
Wang Jinghui, Nanjing Chenbao
Yao Yuan, Jinling Wanbao
Duan Renhu, Jinling Wanbao
Tan Jie, Jinling Wanbao
Liu Jia, Jinling Wanbao
Xiang Guang, Jiangnan Shibao

Guards at the provincial Jiangsu Education Bureau headquarters, in the eastern city of Nanjing, harassed a group of at least eight reporters, including Wang, Huang, and Gao, from the Chinese-language Nanjing Chenbao (Nanjing Morning Post); Tan, Liu, Yao, and Duan, from Jinling Wanbao (Jinling Evening Post); and Xiang, from Jiangnan Shibao (Jiangnan Times), beating up several and severely injuring one, according to Nanfang Zhoumo (Southern Weekend), a popular newspaper published in the southern Guangdong Province.

The incident began when the guards asked Wang, Tan, and Liu to leave an invitation-only meeting, Nanfang Zhoumo reported. The reporters quietly left the meeting, but security guards accosted them on their way out. Wang told the newspaper that the guards were rude and pushed the journalists down the stairs.

The reporters, along with five others, left for the bureau headquarters to demand an explanation, but guards again stopped them at the door, and a fight broke out when photographers in the group took pictures.

Several reporters were forced into an elevator and beaten, while three were detained in rooms for 40 minutes before the city police arrived. Photographer Gao, who is in his 50s, lost consciousness after the beating and was sent to a hospital. On August 5, several of the journalists involved lodged a formal complaint with the Public Security Bureau. The case is under investigation.

This is the third time in the last year that Gao has been physically attacked while working. Following the attack, Nanjing Chenbao Deputy Editor Huang Xiaoming told Nanfang Zhoumo, "I have been a journalist for 34 years, but I have never encountered a case like this, in which so many journalists were beaten, and in the offices of a provincial-level department.... Government officials need to take responsibility for this incident."

AUGUST 7, 2003

Kim Seung Jin, freelance

Geum Myeong Seok, freelance

Shanghai police arrested South Korean journalists Kim and Geum while they were filming North Korean refugees who were attempting to gain asylum by forcibly entering a school run by the Japanese government. Police also detained Japanese citizen Fumiaka Yamada and South Korean citizen Kim Gi Ju, both of whom work with the Japan-based Society to Help Returnees to North Korea (HRNK), as well as seven North Korean refugees, including two children, according to the HRNK.

Kim is a freelance cameraman whose footage has been used by television networks in Japan and South Korea, according to a former colleague of Kim's. He had spent the last several months in China, where he reported on North Korean refugees. Geum is a freelance photographer.

On August 12, a spokesperson for the Shanghai government confirmed the arrests, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. Xinhua reported that the detainees were suspected of "organizing illegal border crossings and attempting to forcefully enter a foreign school in Shanghai."

On August 28, Kim, Geum, Yamada, and Kim Gi Ju were released and deported from China. Shanghai officials told The Associated Press that the four were deported because they posed a "great threat to security and safety." The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade announced that the three South Koreans had returned to their country.

APRIL 14, 2003
Updated: November 6, 2003

Luo Yongzhong, freelance

Chinese national security officers arrested Luo, a freelance writer who has published more than 150 articles online, at his apartment in the northeastern city of Changchun. The officials also searched Luo's home, confiscating his computer, printer, and copies of some of his writings. On July 7, he was formally arrested on subversion charges.

On October 14, the Changchun Intermediate Court sentenced Luo to three years in prison and two years without political rights upon his release.

In the sentencing papers, which have been widely distributed online, the court stated that between May and June 2003, Luo wrote several essays that "attacked the socialist system, incited to subvert state power, and created a negative influence on society." Several specific articles were cited as evidence, including "At Last We See the Danger of the Three Represents!" – a reference to a political theory formulated by former President Jiang Zemin – and "Tell Today's Youth the Truth About June 4" – a reference to the military crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy protesters in June 1989. According to the court papers, the articles were published in online forums, including Shuijing Luntan (Crystal).

Luo, who has a physical disability, has also written a number of articles advocating for the rights of disabled people.

OCTOBER 28, 2003
Posted: January 29, 2004
Updated: August 11, 2004

Du Daobin, freelance

At about 4:00 p.m. on October 28, 2003, Internet essayist Du Daobin was arrested and brought to the public security bureau in Xiaogan District, Yingcheng, Hubei Province, according to writer Liu Xiaobo, who first published news of Du's arrest online. Later that day, police came to Du's house and confiscated his computer, books, and copies of his writings. When Du's wife, Huang Chunrong, asked police why he had been arrested, the officer responded, "We have spoken to Du Daobin several times, but he did not listen. He has already crossed the line." According to Liu, the officer also warned Huang against telling foreign journalists about the arrest. Huang was not allowed to visit or communicate with Du in detention.

Before his arrest, Du had been a prolific writer who distributed his essays online. Many of his essays offered commentary about official policies or social issues in China. In one essay, titled "Media Discipline is Greater than the Constitution," Du argued that the Propaganda Bureau's stringent regulation of the media is unconstitutional. He called on Chinese citizens, especially journalists, to "exercise our innate right to disobey arbitrary power, to actively support all suppressed media, to reject the voices of the Party's 'mouthpieces,' and to fight against the tyranny of the Propaganda Bureau." His writing was published on several Chinese-language news sites, including Dajiyuan (Epoch Times, and Minzhu Luntan (Democracy Forum,, both of which are based outside China.

Du was deeply affected by the arrest of fellow Internet journalist Liu Di, a 23-year-old college student, who was arrested in Beijing on November 7, 2002, and has been held incommunicado since. She had been an active contributor to several online forums, and frequently wrote articles that were critical of the Chinese government. She also expressed support for imprisoned Web master Huang Qi, and called for freedom of expression.

After Liu Di's arrest, Du had actively called for her release and recently co-organized an online campaign to show solidarity by taking a series of actions, including spending one day in a darkened room to symbolically "accompany Liu Di in prison." He also wrote a number of essays supporting Liu Di and calling on authorities to release her.

A formal arrest warrant was sent to Du's house on Nov. 12, 2003, stating that he was being held on charges of "incitement to subvert state power."

More than 100 of Du's supporters signed an open letter to Premier Wen Jiabao demanding his release and the right to free expression, which China's constitution guarantees.

Du was tried on subversion charges on May 18, 2004. His trial date was announced only four days prior, so his Beijing-based lawyer Mo Shaoping was unable to represent him. Instead, a court-appointed lawyer entered a guilty plea.

On June 11, 2004, Du was convicted of subversion but received a suspended three-year sentence from the Intermediate People's Court in Xiaogan, a city in the central Hubei Province.

On August 11, 2004, the Supreme People's Court of Hubei Province rejected Du's appeal, upholding the lower court's sentence.

DECEMBER 13, 2003
Posted: January 29, 2004

Kong Youping, freelance

Kong, an essayist and poet, was arrested in Anshan, Liaoning Province. He had written articles online that supported democratic reforms and called for a reversal of the government's "counterrevolutionary" ruling on the pro-democracy demonstrations of 1989, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy.

Kong's essays included an appeal to democracy activists in China that stated, "In order to work well for democracy, we need a well-organized, strong, powerful and effective organization. Otherwise, a mainland democracy movement will accomplish nothing." Several of his articles and poems were posted on the Minzhu Luntan (Democracy Forum, Web site.

In 1998, Kong served time in prison after he became a member of the Liaoning Province branch of the China Democracy Party, an opposition party. At the end of 2003, Kong had not yet been tried.

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