Royal asks about imprisoned journalists
During meetings with Chinese officials on 8 January, France’s socialist party presidential candidate Ségolène Royal asked for information about the fate of lawyers Chen Guangcheng and Gao Zhisheng, and imprisoned journalists Zhao Yan, Ching Cheong and Yang Zili. The deputy head of the international department of the Communist Party of China’s central committee, Zhang Zhijun, said the request would be considered.
Members of Royal’s delegation also met with representatives of official journalists’ and lawyers’ organisations. Asked about Royal’s enquiries, one of her advisers said: “Without journalists, there is no news and without news, there is no democracy.”
Madam Ségolène Royal
President of the Poitou-Charentes Regional Council
Member of Parliament for Deux-Sèvres
Paris, 5 January 2007
Dear Madam President,
On the eve of your visit to China, Reporters Without Borders would like to draw your attention to the situation of journalists, Internet users and human rights activists in that country.
You have said that you intend to raise the human rights situation with the people you meet during your visit. You have, in particular, said that you will raise the issue of China’s ratification of the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Perhaps you could remind them that nearly 10 years have gone by since the Chinese authorities promised to ratify it.
We think it is essential that, as a member of parliament and president of a regional council, you should request the release of imprisoned journalists and Internet users. We would be very grateful if you would raise the plight of journalists who have been given long prison sentences such as Zhao Yan, a New York Times researcher, Ching Cheong, a Hong Kong-based correspondent for the Straits Times newspaper, and Yang Zili, the founder of the lib126.com website.
It is true that 2007 began with good news for press freedom in China. Foreign journalists are no longer required to obtain prior permission before moving about the country or conducting an interview. But access to thousands of websites based abroad, including Wikipedia, is blocked inside China and international radio stations such as the BBC World Service are jammed.
The Chinese authorities continue to crack down on the liberal press and Internet users. In recent months, the Propaganda Department has targeted the more critical publications such as Bing Dian, Nanfang Dushi Bao (Southern Metropolis News) and Xin Jing Bao (Beijing News).
The Internet suffers the same fate as the traditional media. Year by year, China continues to perfect its system of online filtering and surveillance, constantly reducing the freedom of expression of Internet users. Reporters Without Borders is particularly disturbed by the way that international Internet companies - mostly Americans ones such as Yahoo!, Microsoft, Cisco and Google - cooperate with the Chinese authorities. Thanks to these corporations, China is in the process of creating its own tailor-made Internet, one that is impervious to “subversive” information from abroad.
Reporters Without Borders would finally like to point that at least 32 journalists and 50 cyber-dissident are currently imprisoned in China. Press freedom is even more restricted in the regions of Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia, where there are separatist movements.
We trust in your commitment to the issues at stake.