The Communist Party’s media control department has asked sports editors of the main Chinese publications to not come down too hard on the Chinese football team, which was beaten 2-0 by Costa Rica in the World Cup. Several sports journalists told the Reuters press agency that their instructions were clear: they were "not to criticize the team, to not anger fans".
With commemorations underway for the thirteenth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, the Chinese football team kicks off its participation in the World Cup. Reporters Without Borders (RSF - Reporters Sans Frontières) wants to heighten public awareness of the human rights situation in China and pay homage to the thousands of people killed by the Chinese army in June 1989. The organisation makes a reminder that at least two hundred political prisoners, including journalists, are still languishing in prison for having called for democracy in China, in 1989.
At least four journalists are in prison for having taken part in the Beijing Spring of 1989 or for having criticised the crimes committed by security forces against demonstrators in clandestine publications. The four are Yu Dongyue, art critic with Liuyang News, arrested on 23 May 1989 and sentenced to twenty years in jail, Hu Liping, a journalist with the Beijing Daily, arrested on 7 April 1990 and sentenced to ten years in jail, Chen Yanbin, co-director of the clandestine magazine Tielu, arrested at the end of 1990 and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, and Zhang Yafei, co-director of the clandestine magazine Tielu, arrested in September 1990 and sentenced to eleven years in jail.
Thirteen years later, it is still illegal to talk openly about the events of June 1989 and the Chinese authorities repress those who call for justice for the students and workers killed in Beijing. For example, the cyber-dissident Huang Qi, whose web site contained information in Chinese on the Tiananmen Square massacre, has been in prison since March 2000. There has been no news of him for several months.
Reporters Without Borders has no intention of tarnishing the world’s greatest football event. It’s aim is to make a reminder that in China, even during the World Cup, journalist and people who think differently are jailed, tortured and censored. Two days before the match against Costa Rica, news came through that two militants belonging to the Chinese Democratic Party (which is banned) had been sentenced to ten and eleven years in prison. Two members of illegal Christian churches were also arrested by the police as a "preventive measure against commemorations" of 4 June 1989.