With less than two weeks to go to the start of the Olympic Games in Beijing, the human rights situation in China has never been such a burning issue. The government’s all-out focus on security and its crackdown on human rights activists are as important as the sports events themselves.
The authorities have denied the existence of any crackdown although around 10 Chinese activists have been detained for criticising the way the Olympic Games are being organised. It is vital that the fate of these “Olympic prisoners,” including Hu Jia, are not forgotten during the games.
Reporters Without Borders urges the thousands of foreign journalists visiting Beijing and other parts of China during the games to look at the issue of free expression, although it will not be easy.
The authorities issued new rules for the international press in January 2007 that supposedly give foreign journalists the right to go anywhere and interview whomever they want. But these rights have been repeatedly violated, above in Tibet and Sichuan.
Reporters Without Borders therefore offers the following practical advice to foreign journalists to help them cover the human rights situation in China.
1. Install programmes on your computer that will help you to circumvent firewalls and protect your communications. Before going to China, you should install Tor (www.torproject.org/index.html.en), Psiphon (http://psiphon.civisec.org/) or Proxify (https://proxify.com/). The international version of Skype is recommended, rather than the one available in China, which is not secure. It is also advisable to encrypt emails with PGP (http://www.pgpi.org).
“You can also unblock your Internet connection by using a VPN (Virtual Private Network). It provides you with a secure connection just as if you were located outside of China. Some VPNs are free, such as Hotspot Shield (http://www.anchorfree.com/downloads/hotspot-shield). Others are paid, such as Jitterbits VPN (http://www.jitterbits.com). Jitterbits can also be reached at this number in Beijing, +86-10-6556-1973.”
More information is available in the Reporters Without Borders Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents: http://www.rsf.org./article.php3?id_article=26187
2. Protect your computer against Trojan viruses and ensure that it is password-protected. Do not leave your equipment and contact lists in an accessible condition in a hotel room.
3. When making phone calls or sending emails, bear in mind that there is no guarantee of confidentiality. Use several SIM cards, especially when contacting “sensitive” people.
4. Before leaving to China, get the contact details of Chinese human rights activists, lawyers and relatives of prisoners of conscience. Reporters Without Borders can provide journalists with lists of people willing to talk to the foreign press.
5. Do not use the services of Chinese companies that offer interpreters and guides. These companies are linked to the government and their employees could easily try to prevent you from investigating sensitive issues or could endanger your sources. Try to use the services of Chinese interpreters and fixers who are freelancers, or foreign journalists who speak Chinese.
6. Take the following with you when you go out reporting: the Chinese-language version of the rules for foreign journalists, your embassy’s contact details, photocopies of your ID documents and press accreditation, and the phone numbers of BOCOG and the Chinese foreign ministry.
7. Monitor the following independent Chinese-language sources of news about China: the BBC in Chinese (http://news.bbc.co.uk/chinese), Radio Free Asia in Chinese (www.rfa.org/mandarin) and Boxun (www.boxun.com).
8. Any violation of your freedom of movement and right to interview should be reported to your embassy, the Foreign Correspondents Club of China (www.fccchina.org) and Reporters Without Borders. It should also be reported to BOCOG and the IOC. In the event of any conflict with the authorities, use the legal hotline set up by Chinese lawyer Li Baiguang (139 108 02 896 or 13509652761 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
9. Read the Reporters’ Guide to China that has been written by the Foreign Correspondents Club of China.