Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) welcomed the popular success of the Year of China in France, but regretted that France failed to use the occasion to condemn a crackdown on journalists and Internet-users.
The international press freedom organisation also lamented the fact that the French authorities pandered to the Beijing government’s demands over the list of invited Chinese artists and performers.
From October 2003 to July 2004, the duration of the festival, two senior figures in the reformist press were sentenced to heavy jail terms, one famous editor-in-chief was arrested for his reports on Sars and torture, ten Internet-users and cyberdissidents were arrested and 20 others were sentenced to prison terms, some of them of up to 14 years.
No fewer than 13 Internet-users and cyberdissidents were sentenced during the months of October and November 2003 alone, coinciding with the opening of the festivities.
The cyberpolice also tightened their grip on Internet discussion forums, strengthened surveillance of e-mails and increased its propaganda sites and, latest innovation; put in place an improved text messaging control system.
Leading Chinese writers and Chinese organisations in France were excluded from the events to satisfy Beijing.
The French government also gave way to pressure from Beijing and tried to censor the Chinese-language television channel NTDTV carried on the Eutelsat satellite. The privately-owned channel, close to the Falungong spiritual movement, has drawn the ire of the authorities.
In conclusion, Reporters Without Borders hopes that strengthened ties between the two countries will lead to the release of 27 journalists and 61 cyberdissidents who are currently in jail in China and bring an end to government censorship. The organisation particularly pointed to the case of website creator Huang Qi, laureate of the 2004 Cyberfreedom Prize, who has been imprisoned in Sichuan for four years.
In May 2004, Reporters Without Borders and publishers La Découverte produced "China, the black book" to draw public attention to mass human rights abuses committed in China.