The end of President Jiang Zemin’s mandate and the arrival of Hu Jintao at the helm of the state spawned a vast propaganda campaign in the Chinese media. In June, the government addressed a 32-point memorandum to the main news media defending the line of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on news reporting. The media were required to promote a "suitable climate" in the run-up to the congress and sensitive subjects such as privatisation or class conflict were banned.
The handover of power to the fourth generation, led by Hu Jintao, did not lead to any immediate increase in press freedom. In December, the authorities announced that Chinese journalists would henceforth have to submit to tests, especially on their knowledge of Communist Party ideology, to be allowed to practice the profession. Journalist Gao Yu, who has been imprisoned for several years, wrote: "In China today, journalists like me who choose to fight for democracy and press freedom still put their safety, career and personal comfort at risk." The crackdown on cyber-dissidents stepped up and at least 35 were imprisoned for posting "subversive" writing on the Internet.
Although jealously controlled by the Communist Party, the press is a dynamic sector. Publications for women were spreading fast and were not censored when they broke such taboos as homosexuality. The authorities also granted new foreign TV channels the right to broadcast their programming in the People’s Republic. ATV, the privately-owned channel based in Hong Kong, was authorised to broadcast to the millions of viewers in the southern province of Guangdong. These accords were conditioned on respect for "the current legislation on information content." Similarly, Australian press magnate Rupert Murdoch’s new Chinese channel followed the propaganda department’s orders. On the other hand, BBC World’s satellite broadcasting to China was suspended in July after it carried a report on the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China that referred to the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement.
The only challenge to the party’s monopoly of the news media came from the Falun Gong, which was persecuted as a "diabolic cult" by the authorities and which had no authorised access to the Chinese media. On at least five occasions, Falun Gong followers hijacked into cable or satellite TV services in order to transmit footage in support of their movement. Dozens of members were arrested for this and received long prison sentences.
In 2002, concern centred on Hong Kong, where the government proposed a "national security" law that would threaten the fundamental freedoms protected by the Basic Law negotiated before handover in 1997. This draft law, which could take effect in 2003, introduces the charge of "subversion," which is often used in China to imprison dissidents. Journalists were specially targeted by the law, as it proposed prison sentences for publishing "state secrets." A third of Hong Kong’s journalists said they were thinking of changing profession if the law were adopted and, despite the criticism, the government had still not withdrawn it at the end of 2002. There was also an increase in self-censorship and in pressure on editorial policies. The leading English-language daily, the South China Morning Post, fired its Beijing bureau chief who was viewed as too independent by his editor in Hong Kong, a former journalist with the very official China Daily.
Despite these threats, Hong Kong continued to be an area of freedom and diversity where 45 dailies and weeklies fought over 6.3 million potential readers. This competition arguably encouraged sensationalism at the expense of professional ethics, and some journalists feared that the excesses could serve as a pretext for limiting press freedom.
The battle for the airwaves intensified in 2002 between the Chinese government and international radio stations broadcasting in Mandarin, Tibetan or Uighur. The government went so far as to jam the frequencies of the BBC World Service broadcasts in Uzbek (a language close to Uighur) to ensure that the population in the northwestern Xinjiang region did not have access to this independent news source. Campaigns against separatism, which was equated with "terrorism," were launched in Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia. A party leader in Xinjiang said "hostile western forces and ethnic separatists" had to be prevented from infiltrating the region by using radio, television, print media or Internet. Dozens of publications were shut down, and the People’s Liberation Army made bonfires of "subversive material." There was no loosening of the iron grip on the news media in Tibet, although the several political prisoners were released including documentary film-maker Ngawang Choephel.
Although the government has promised to let foreign journalists work freely when the Olympic Games are held in Beijing in 2008, correspondents and visiting journalists were still subject to strict control in 2002. The Communist Party denied foreign correspondents the right to freely investigate dissidence, clandestine religious movements, corruption, AIDS in Henan province, workers’ strikes, the North Korean refugees, natural catastrophes or the Tibetan and Uighur separatists.
11 journalists imprisoned
At least 11 journalists were in prison at the end of 2002.
Yu Dongyue, an art critic with The Liuyang News who was arrested on 23 May 1989 and sentenced to 20 years in prison, was being held in Hunan province’s No. 1 prison. He was suffering from serious psychological problems as a result of long spells of solitary confinement.
Dissident Hu Liping of the Beijing Daily, who was arrested on 7 April 1990 and sentenced to 10 years in prison for "counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement," was reportedly being held in Beijing’s No. 2 prison.
Chen Yanbin, co-editor of the clandestine magazine Tielu, was arrested at the end of 1990 and sentenced to eight years for "incitement to rebellion" and another eight years for "counter-revolutionary propaganda." The two sentences were combined into one of 15 years of imprisonment. The authorities in Beijing’s No. 2 prison reduced his sentence by three months for "good behaviour" in 1998.
Zhang Yafei, co-editor of the clandestine magazine Tielu, who was arrested in September 1990 and sentenced to 11 years in prison for "counter-revolutionary propaganda," was being held in a "prison factory" that repairs vehicles in Jinan, the capital of Shandong province.
Liu Jingsheng, trade unionist and co-founder of the clandestine magazines Enquiries (Tansuo) and Freedom Forum, was arrested on 28 May 1992 and sentenced to 15 years in prison for "counter-revolutionary propaganda." His sentence was reduced by 13 months in 2000 for "good behaviour" and because he had " expressed regret." He was being held in Banbuqiao detention centre in Beijing where he was suffering from gastric problems and high blood pressure.
Wu Shishen of the Xinhua news agency was arrested in October 1992 and sentenced to life imprisonment on the direct orders of President Jiang Zemin. He was accused of "illegally disclosing state secrets" because he gave a Hong Kong journalist a copy of the speech Jiang was going to make to the Communist Party congress.
Gao Qinrong of the Xinhua news agency in Shanxi province was arrested on 4 December 1998 and sentenced to 13 years in prison for corruption, embezzlement and procuring on the basis of false testimony. In reality, he had upset the provincial party leader by exposing the failure of his major irrigation project. In November 2001, his wife Duan Maoying said he had become very weak, had lost his hair and could no longer write because his hands trembled. Duan is only allowed to visit him once a month.
Jiang Weiping, bureau chief for the Hong Kong-based daily Wen Wei Po in Dalian (Liaoning province), was tried with the utmost secrecy by a court in Dalian on 5 September. The sentence was not pronounced until the start of November: nine years in prison for illegal possession of confidential documents, disclosing state secrets and "trying to overthrow the government." Jiang had been arrested on 5 December 2000 for contributing four reports to the Hong Kong magazine Qianshao about high-level corruption in northeastern China, above all implicating the governor of Liaoning province, Bo Xilai, the son of veteran party leader Bo Yibo.
Lu Wanbin of Textile Daily was arrested on 22 December 2001 in Yangcheng (Jiangsu province) while investigating a strike in a garment factory. Workers at the Huainan factory were opposing the privatisation of their company and wage cuts. Lu was detained before his report came out. Aged in his twenties, Lu was a promising journalist, one of his editors said.
Ma Linhai was arrested after writing a report that appeared in the weekly Zhengquan Shichang Zhoukan on 24 November 2001 about one the country’s biggest independent power companies, Huaneng Power Shichang Zhoukan. Ma wrote that it had become "a family business belonging to the Li family," the family of former prime Minister Li Peng. The entire issue of the weekly was withdrawn from sale.
Police arrested Wang Daqi, 70, editor of the magazine Ecology, at his home in Hefei (the capital of Anhui province) on 24 January 2002, confiscating many personal files and accusing him of "threatening national security." Various sources said the authorities disagreed with the editorial line of his magazine and had asked him to stop publishing. Ecology, which first appeared in 1987, took the position that the environment in China would be better served by progressive democratisation.
Historian Xu Zerong, a specialist in Chinese Communist Party history, was sentenced in January 2002 to 13 years in prison for "illicit publication" and dissemination of "state secrets." He allegedly disseminated abroad important historic documents about the Chinese army’s role in the Korean war. He also co-authored an article in the magazine Yazhou Zhoukan about the support given by the Chinese authorities to the Malayan communists - a revelation that prompted his arrest. The place where he was serving his sentence at the the end of 2002 was a secret.
Journalists Hu Liping, Tenpa Kelsang and Ma Tao should have been set free in 2002 on completion of sentence but the authorities never confirmed their release from prison. There was also no word about two other journalists who could still be held by the authorities. One was Li Jian, editor in chief of the Xinjiang Business News (of the western Xinjiang region), reportedly arrested in November 1999 for publishing a reader’s letter accusing local authorities of corruption. The other was Feng Daxun, a former journalist and member of the banned China Democracy Party, who was charged with "subversive activities" in June 2001 for interviewing workers who were demonstrating about delays in wage payments and layoffs in the city of Neijiang.
Ngawang Choephel, a Tibetan documentary film-maker and folk music specialist , was released from Chengdu prison on 20 January after serving six years of an 18-year sentence and left for the United States accompanied by a US diplomat. John Kamm of the Dui Hua foundation, which defends Chinese political prisoners, said he was freed on medical grounds under a 1990 regulation that allows ailing prisoners to be released if they have served at least a third of their sentence. He was arrested in August 1995 in a market in Shigatsé (southeast of Lhassa) while shooting footage for a documentary on Tibetan dance and song. He was convicted in November 1996 of subversion, espionage and counter-revolutionary activities.
Journalist and dissident Wang Yiliang was released from Shanghai camp for reeducation through work on 30 January on completing a two-year reeducation sentence. A friend who is a political refugee in the United States said Wang had returned to his home in Shanghai, but his mother refused to confirm his release for fear of further reprisals. Following arrest on 31 January 2000, Wang was convicted of "disseminating pornographic material" on the grounds that, in mid-1999, he had shown the film Lady Chatterley’s Lover to three friends and had made DVD copies of this film and The Piano Lesson. The real reason he was targeted by the authorities was his participation in creating the Bulletin of the Chinese Cultural Renaissance, a clandestine magazine.
Dissident journalist Chen Ziming, 50, was released from house arrest on 10 October, completing a 13-year prison sentence for his alleged role in the 1989 democracy movement. There were no restrictions on his movements but he was kept under close surveillance and agents of the public security ministry followed him whenever he left his home. Chen was one of the editors of Economics Weekly, considered too reformist by the authorities. Convicted on 12 February 1991 of "counter-revolutionary activities," he had been released on "medical grounds" in 1994 following US pressure but was later reimprisoned. He had been under house arrest since 1996.
19 journalists detained
Three Hong Kong journalists, one of them a photographer with the South China Morning Post, were detained by police for several hours on 28 January 2002 outside a court in Fuqing in the southeastern province of Fujian where Hong Kong resident Lin Junhua was being tried for the "illegal sale" of bibles to members of a banned Protestant group. The journalists were taken to the city’s public security bureau and its propaganda department. Before they were set free, two local journalists were given the job of destroying the photographs they had taken outside the court.
At least seven foreign journalists were detained for two hours and threatened by police in Beijing on 14 February. Two Associated Press reporters, an Agence France-Presse photographer, two Reuters reporters and a BBC journalist were arrested while covering a demonstration by about 40 Falun Gong members in Tiananmen square, in the course of which some of them saw the police use violence against the demonstrators. Police also detained a journalist with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) who happened to be in the square on personal business. The police took the journalists to the nearest police post, where they seized their film and video cassettes and one police officer repeatedly threatened them. The Chinese authorities have harassed foreign journalists trying to cover the Falun Gong since the movement was banned in July 1999. According to the estimates of Reporters Without Borders, at least 50 representatives of the international press have been detained since then, and some have been hit by police.
Two journalists with the Hong Kong-based TVB television network were hit by police and then detained for several hours at the ferry terminal in the special administrative region of Macao (in southern China) on 16 February while trying to cover the expulsion of pro-democracy activist Leung Kwok-hung, who had come to protest against the presence in Macao of the president of the National People’s Congress, Li Peng. The Macao police the next day denied any ill-treatment, and said they had just stopped the two journalists from passing a barrier.
The economy editor of the Guangzhou Daily was arrested and questioned by police for several hours in the southern city of Guangzhou after inadvertently publishing two poems by the leader of the banned Falun Gong movement, Li Hongzhi, on 30 March. The Hong Kong-based newspaper Wen Wei Po said the two poems about suffering and spiritual health were published in the newspaper’s economy pages because they were thought to refer to economic conditions.
Police arrested Associated Press photographer Ng Han Guan on 14 April in Beijing because he was present when an American student waved a pro-Falun Gong banner in Tiananmen square. He was placed in police detention along with the student and was questioned for about three hours before being released.
Police briefly detained and manhandled four journalists who were trying to cover a group of homeless people from mainland China being evicted from a public park in Hong Kong on 25 April. South China Morning Post photographer Ricky Chung and Sing Tao photographer Bobby Tsui, were pinned to the ground by police before being led to an area where journalists had been told to stay. As he tried to photograph this, Chan Chi-wai, a journalist with the daily Ming Pao, was assailed by four or five policemen, who forcibly dragged him before handcuffing him. He remained handcuffed for about 15 minutes. A police officer accused him of obstruction. Cable TV cameraman Putt Kwong-lai was also handcuffed and then hospitalised for injuries to his hands. The police commander of Hong Kong’s central district acknowledged that journalists were manhandled but blamed this on the tension and said there was no intent to cause injury. He also acknowledged that journalists were handcuffed but said they were released after calming down. After this incident, four Hong Kong journalists’ associations asked the authorities not to confine the press to any area during future police operations, except in extraordinary circumstances, as this could limit press freedom.
Freelance journalist Jiang Xueqin, a naturalised Canadian of Chinese origin, was detained by police on 3 June while clandestinely filming a large demonstration by workers in the northern city of Daqing for the US public television channel PBS. Jiang had been based in Beijing for two years, specialising in social issues and stringing for the Boston-based Christian Science Monitor and the Far Eastern Economic Review of Hong Kong. Police accused him of making an illegal video recording and being a CIA spy. He was held for 48 hours in a country hotel and deprived of food and sleep, while police pressured him to confess to his "errors" in front of a video camera. He finally agreed to do this after learning that one of the workers he had interviewed on camera had also been arrested. He was released on 5 June and was immediately deported back to Canada.
Two journalists attacked
Yang Wei, a photographer with the daily Jinghua Shibao (Beijing Times), was attacked by staff of the Zhongchuang property management company in Fengtai (Beijing municipality) on 24 March 2002, and had to be hospitalised for several days. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, he had been working undercover to investigate mismanagement and unfair pricing. A group of employees gave him a beating when they discovered he was a journalist. Four of them were later arrested but were released three days later and were not charged.
Lee Sang-Min, Beijing correspondent of the South Korean news agency Yonhap, was hit by police outside the South Korean consulate in Beijing on 13 June while trying to cover a fight between the police and consulate employees. The fight began when policemen, one of whom was inebriated, abducted a North Korean who had come with his son to request asylum. Consulate employees tried to intervene and were violently attacked by the police. Three diplomats were injured while Lee sustained an injury to the right leg. The South Korean government summoned the Chinese ambassador to Seoul to protest about the forcible entry into a diplomatic building and use of violence by the Chinese police.
Pressure and obstruction
The government news media announced on 17 January 2002 that the government had no intention of letting foreign investors take control of the Chinese media, although special provisions were in place for capital originating in Hong Kong. A few days earlier the official news agency Xinhua had said China intended to progressively allow foreign investors into the news media sector, one which the central government views as strategic. Privately-owned companies, especially foreign ones, have succeeded in penetrating the magazine market by exploiting gaps in the system, in particular, by using advertising and distribution channels. But access to the news media continued to be barred.
Abdulahat Abdurixit, a senior official in the western region of Xinjiang, launched an ideological campaign aimed at eradicating Uighur "separatism" on 18 January. "Hostile western forces and ethnic separatists must be prevented from infiltrating the region using radio, print media, audio and video material, or the Internet," he said. Shortly thereafter, authorities in the Yili region (west of Xinjiang) decided to "erect a rampart against the infiltration of western culture" by going after the sale and installation of illegal satellite dishes. The campaign envisaged new rules for registering homes allowed to receive foreign TV and "drastic measures, especially against residential neighbourhoods that receive satellite TV without authorisation." Wang Lequan, the chief administrative official in Xinjiang, reiterated the ideological campaign call at the end of the month, accusing certain news media of propagating separatist ideas.
The authorities in the southeastern city of Shanghai announce measures to stop the use of illegally installed satellite dishes to receive foreign TV channels in January. Hu Zhanfan, director of the State Administration for Radio, Film and Television (SAFRT), said the aim was to "guarantee social order, ensure that cultural and ideological progress moves in the right direction [and] assist the development of local media." The authorities said there were 20,000 clandestine dishes in Shanghai but 200,000 was thought to be a more realistic estimate.
The communication ministry circulated a list of 10 Chinese press shortcomings to news media directors at the end of February. They included "denigrating the Communist Party’s committees", being "too independent", " freely reproducing articles published on the Internet", "attributing too much importance to western journalism" and "publishing state secrets." The public security and propaganda departments were given the job of correcting these faults by exercising stricter control over the press in the run-up to the party congress in November.
Plain-clothes police tailed foreign journalists, especially American ones, during US President George Bush’s visit to Beijing on 22 February. A dozen dissidents were put under unofficial house arrest to prevent them meeting with journalists.
Chinese and foreign journalists were prevented from covering the big strikes by workers in the northern city of Liaoyang in March. Police expelled Pierre Haski, the China correspondent of the French daily Libération, from the city in the middle of the month. The local newspapers and TV denounced the strike leaders as "criminals" in their reports. Trade unionists who demonstrated for the release of their detained colleagues in the northeast were accused by the official media of acting "against the state with the help of foreign news media." The official regional newspaper, Liaoyang Daily, said the rally’s organisers had broken the law by "collaborating with foreign journalists in order to jeopardise our social order."
The propaganda department in the southern city of Guangzhou interrupted the printing of the 26 March issue of the weekly Nanfang Zhoumo on 20 March and made editors scrap a four-page special report on Project Hope, a charity for illiterate children that is controlled by the Communist Youth League. The front page also had to be recast to eliminate references to the special report, and the 300,000 copies already printed had to be scrapped. The report had picked up reports in the Hong Kong press about the charity’s mismanagement of funds, including the loss of enormous sums in loans and investments. The official China Daily quoted the charity’s officials as insisting that their investments were "legal, healthy and effective" but the scandal revived criticism of the lack of financial control over NGOs close to the government. Nanfang Zhoumo has become known for investigative reports and editorials on subjects rarely broached by other mainland Chinese news media.
The authorities in the western, Muslim region of Xinjiang stepped up their purge of the local press in March. A dissident Uighur group based abroad said a quarter of the publications were shut down. The Beijing authorities launched this campaign "to stop separatists from using the media." Thirty of the 118 newspapers and magazines published in Urumqi were closed on orders from Beijing along with a quarter of the city’s 80 company newsletters. According to the same dissident Uighur group, these internal publications were often intended for mid-level party managers and contained information which the authorities considered too sensitive.
Nine members of the outlawed Falun Gong were charged by a court in the northeastern city of Changchun on 18 April with promoting a "diabolic sect in order to undermine respect for the law" because of their alleged role in the hijacking of a cable TV network in Changchun and Songyuan in early March to broadcast two documentaries about the persecution of the Falun Gong since July 1999. Six others were arrested in the following weeks. The TV hijack had enraged the authorities. The police, especially "Bureau 610," had spent several weeks hunting down Falun Gong followers in Changchun. After a score of arrests, the authorities described it as "an organised and premeditated crime with a clearly diabolical objective." On 21 April, the Falun Gong announced that it had hijacked another cable TV network, this time in the northeastern city of Harbin, again transmitting a documentary about the persecution of Falun Gong followers. The authorities said the Harbin attempt failed and the culprits were arrested. The Falun Gong claimed that Luo Gan, the head of public security in China, had gone to Harbin and had demanded the arrest of 6,000 Falun Gong members by June. The trial of the 11 men and four women arrested in the Changchun incident began on 18 September. On 20 September, after being found guilty of damaging national broadcasting property and conspiracy against public security, they were given sentences ranging from four to 20 years in prison.
Jasper Becker, the Beijing bureau chief of the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, was fired on 29 April because of an "editorial dispute." The newspaper said he was dismissed for being insubordinate to his editor in chief, Wang Xiangwei, who used to work for the official English-language newspaper, China Daily. Becker, a respected journalist and author of books on China, said he was fired because he had opposed the shift in the newspaper’s editorial position to one of support for the government in Beijing. Becker said reporting on Tibet, the Falun Gong and social unrest was increasingly left to the government news agencies which toned everything down as much as possible, and any personal reporting on the Chinese leaders had been eliminated.
It was reported in April that Wang Kun, editor of Huaxia Yingcai (Brilliant Chinese), was to be tried by a Beijing court for publishing this monthly news magazine "illegally" and for "impeding the social order and the market." The South China Morning Post said his arrest resulted from a ban on the magazine in Hong Kong and not in mainland China, as the law requires. At the same time, an official in charge of suppressing "illegal publications" was quoted by the South China Morning Post as saying the publication and distribution of Huaxia Yingcai had never been authorized. Founded in 1996 in Beijing, the monthly had nonetheless claimed to sell more than 100,000 copies of each issue, especially to party members. Although not very critical of the regime, it had published an interview in February 2001 with Nobel literature laureate Gao Xingjian, who is banned in China.
The former mayor of Hancheng in the central province of Shanxi filed a libel suit in May against the Guangzhou -based weekly Nanfang Zhoumo demanding an apology and 60,000 yuan in damages for a report in November 2001 accusing Shanxi’s judges of incompetence. The newspaper said it could prove what it said in the report.
Four Falun Gong members received sentences ranging from seven to 16 years in prison from a court in the southwestern city of Chongqing on 18 May for hijacking a local television channel in January in order to broadcast a programme about their outlawed movement. They were found guilty of "sabotaging a television network."
The state-owned China Central Television (CCTV) received orders in early June not to screen any advertising that featured foreign celebrities. A Beijing newspaper said the authorities gave no explanation for this instruction. The TV network appealed.
Fountain Corporation, a Chinese company, won a libel suit on 4 June against Beijing-based Caijing, China’s best-known financial magazine, which had accused it of irregular accounting practices. The Luohu district court in the southern city of Shenzhen, where the company is based, ordered Caijing to publish an apology and pay 300,000 yuan (more than 30,000 euros) in damages. The conduct and outcome of the case highlighted the problem of pressure on judges and the difficulty for journalists to write about the finances of Chinese companies. The offending report in Caijing was written by journalist and financial analyst Pu Shaoping, who only highlighted accounting irregularities in Fountain’s published results. Economic transparency in China still depended on the good will of entrepreneurs, which was often lacking. Journalists were often barred from the shareholders’ meetings of companies in financial difficulty. The motorcycle manufacturer Jinan Qingqi, for example, refused to let reporters attend its company meetings at the beginning of 2002.
The department of propaganda banned the main newspapers from criticising the national soccer team on 5 June after it lost a World Cup match against Costa Rica 2-0. A reporter with Canton-based Southern Sports said his newspaper had received a note from the central publicity department warning sports publications not to criticise the Chinese team.
Liu Chang-le, the head of Phoenix Satellite Television Holdings and former propaganda chief of the People’s Liberation Army, announced on 13 June that he intended to acquire 46 per cent of one of Hong Kong’s leading independent TV channels, Asia Television (ATV), raising fears about a loss of television independence because of Liu’s close ties to the Beijing authorities.
The Chinese national television broadcaster CCTV, which monopolises the transmission of TV pictures by satellite from China, prevented South Korean television companies from sending pictures of an incident in front of the South Korean consulate to Seoul by satellite on 13 June. The satellite link was suddenly cut when the Korean Broadcasting Service (KBS) started to transmit its video footage, whereupon another South Korean television company, MBC, asked CCTV for a satellite link, claiming it wanted to send material unrelated to the incident. But 15 seconds after starting to transmit, MBC was also disconnected. In the incident, Chinese police attacked South Korean diplomats in front of the consulate (see preceding section).
On 20 June, the Chinese authorities banned distribution of the 15 June issue of the British news weekly The Economist, which had an editorial calling for a political opening in China and a special section on China written by its Beijing correspondent James Miles. The China section insisted that political reforms were necessary to achieve economic growth goals, and referred to sensitive issues such as the Falun Gong spiritual movement, the 1989 democracy movement, and the new Chinese finance markets. The South China Morning Post quoted Miles as saying that articles about China were often cut out of The Economist before it appeared on the stands but this was the first time an entire issue was banned. The magazine’s head of distribution for the Asia-Pacific region said they had feared a ban and had checked with their distributor in China in an attempt to ensure that the issue went out. The distributor got back five days later to report that the issue was not "legal." The 1,000 copies reserved for international hotels were not delivered but subscribers did get theirs.
The authorities on 23 June accused the Falun Gong of hijacking the Sinosat satellite signal, thereby disrupting the programming of nine national channels and six regional channels, replacing it with black screens or pictures of Falun Gong meetings. Liu Lihua, head of the information ministry’s radio broadcasting department, said it was a contemptible act that deserved to be condemned by the entire international community. The official news agency Xinhua said the pirate signals had come from Taiwan but this was denied by officials in Taipei and Taiwanese members of the Falun Gong. The authorities in Beijing repeated their accusations at the end of October after another attempted hijacking ascribed to the Falun Gong. There had also been a further incident in the week following 23 June, in which a Falun Gong message was transmitted on a hijacked TV signal in Laiyang in the eastern province of Shandong. The authorities said the message had appeared on screen for one minute, while a Hong Kong-based human rights group said it stayed on screen for 15 minutes. The same group reported a similar TV hijacking on 27 June in the coastal city of Yantai.
Officials of the ministry of railways refused to answer questions from journalists and asked a foreign photographer to leave the location of a demonstration by dismissed workers in front of the ministry’s headquarters in Beijing at the end of June.
On 1 July, the national broadcaster CCTV and Phoenix TV in Hong Kong cancelled the planned live broadcast of President Jiang’s speech marking the fifth anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to mainland China because of fears that the Falun Gong might hijack the broadcast in order to transmit one of its own messages.
The Beijing authorities on 1 July ordered county television stations to stop broadcasting their own programming and instead use only the programmes carried by stations controlled by national, provincial or municipal authorities. The ban was in part due to the proximity of the party congress but also to the fact that the Falun Gong had been able to hijack the programming of county TV stations with apparent ease.
The weekend edition of the state broadcaster CCTV’s programme for women, "Half of the Sky," was temporarily taken off the air at the beginning of July. The programme, largely devoted to the problems of women in love, did not find favour with the authorities, a CCTV journalist reported. The state authority for radio, film and television ordered CCTV to revise the programme.
BBC World confirmed on 4 July that the transmission of its programming by the Chinese satellite Sinosat 1 had been suspended. A spokesperson said the BBC was trying to understand the reason but assumed it was prompted by a report on 1 July about the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China which referred to the Falun Gong spiritual movement. BBC World had been authorised to broadcast to China since January 2001, although reception was limited to expensive hotels and compounds where foreigners live. This was the first time it had been suspended. The suspension lasted about two weeks.
The Hong Kong Performing Artists Guild, with more than 800 members, announced on 25 July that it intended to ask the government to take steps to stop the growing harassment by paparazzi. The head of the guild, Eric Tsang, said they wanted a ban on such intrusive behaviour as entering homes uninvited. The chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, Mak Yin-Ting, suggested that the guild and journalists could work out a compromise without involving the authorities. Tension between the two groups increased in 2002 when pop signer Nicholas Tse allegedly hit a Hong Kong photographer during a trip to Taiwan.
A Hong Kong judge ordered the press on 31 July to leave the courtroom during the trial of a case between a top model’s mother and her maid, accused of destroying an evening gown. The presence of journalists reportedly made the judge uncomfortable. The president of the court ordered an internal enquiry into the judge’s order, described as "inappropriate" by a court spokesperson.
The Shanghai authorities sent local journalists a memo at the end of July forbidding them from mentioning plans for a Disney theme park in the city, although negotiations were under way between the city and Disney. Any reference to the project required special permission from the information bureau, the memo said.
With a view to the 16th Congress of the Communist Party in November, the government in August launched a massive campaign to celebrate the achievements of outgoing President Jiang Zemin, especially all he had done for stability and unity. At a gathering of provincial propaganda chiefs and major news media editors on 26 August, President Jiang ordered the news media not to report the conflicts within the party. The media were told to use only the reports of the official news agency Xinhua, the party daily or the party magazine for broaching sensitive issues. The propaganda chiefs threatened to shut down news media if they published reports that were not in the party’s interest. Ding Guangen, head of the central propaganda department, appealed to journalists to "do more to shore up the morale of the people, especially by paying attention to the impoverished masses and reflecting their difficulties." The media were, however, told not to cover workers’ demonstrations or protests by displaced peasants.
Falun Gong members hijacked local television’s Channel 5 in Baiyin in the central province of Gansu on 17 August. Baiyin residents said programming was interrupted for 10-20 minutes by pictures of Falun Gong members being persecuted by the police. The local newspapers did not report the incident.
Hong Kong’s state-owned radio and television broadcaster RTHK abandoned the idea of interviewing Taiwanese Vice-President Annette Lu Hsiu-lien on 19 August after a Beijing official said it would create "major problems" and would be tantamount to promoting the notion of "two Chinas."
A dozen pro-democracy activists demonstrated outside the privately-owned radio station Metro Broadcast in Hong Kong on 19 August to condemn the dismissal of its editor in chief Paul Cheung as an act of censorship. Cheung said he was dismissed because of his critical coverage of Hong Kong’s chief executive Tung Chee-hwa and business tycoon Li Ka-shing, the station’s owner. The station said it let Cheung go for financial reasons.
On the night of 31 August, seven policemen raided the home and office in Beijing of Yeo Shi-Dong, correspondent of the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo. Showing no warrant and giving no explanation, the police searched the premises and questioned him for two hours about his movements, his family and his recent change of residence. They took documents relating to his investigation into North Korean refugees, his certificate of residence in China, his press card, his passport and the passports of family members. Before leaving, the police told him he had broken the law by failing to report his recent change of address to the local police station. A fine was imposed for this the next day at the immigration office. This was the first time such a regulation had been invoked. Until now, foreign correspondents were required only to notify the foreign ministry when changing residence, a requirement he had complied with. On 26 August, Yeo had written an article on the arrest of several North Korean dissidents who had tried to force their way into an embassy to request asylum. His newspaper, for its part, had on several occasions criticized China’s position on North Korean dissidents, calling on the authorities to give them refugee status instead of sending them back to North Korea.
The major news media received a 32-point government memorandum in September instructing them to adhere to the line of the Chinese Communist Party so as to "create an appropriate climate" for the party’s congress in November. It also banned them from tackling sensitive issues such as the admission of entrepreneurs into the party, the privatisation of state companies and class divisions. In effect, the memorandum called on the media to promote President Jiang Zemin’s so-called "Three Represents" theory and rejected the notion of class struggle within Chinese society. A year earlier, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences had issued a report on the existence of three, very differentiated social classes in China. The news media had received orders at that time not to mention the report, which was blamed for "creating conflicts" within the party. Thereafter, censors paid more attention to any mention of class divisions.
In the run-up to the congress, several Chinese leaders, especially Prime Minister Zhu Rongji, referred to the news media as the "spokesperson" of the Communist Party. Other leaders spoke of the need for the news media to be critical of the leadership. This veiled debate reflected the conflicts within the Central Committee on this question.
The official People’s Daily ran an editorial in September criticising journalists who "fabricate news" to compete with other Chinese publications and deploring the lack of control by the state apparatus over independent journalists. "Some independent journalists are professional liars," the newspaper said. At the same time, the propaganda department urged journalists to exercise more self-discipline.
The Hong Kong government on 24 September published a draft national security law proposing imprisonment and other heavy penalties for treason, secession, subversion and theft of state secrets. Presented as an implementation of article 23 of the Basic Law negotiated before Hong Kong’s handover in 1997, the draft law had Beijing’s stamp and was widely criticised as a threat to individual freedoms, especially press freedom, as the concept of state secret was defined in the vaguest of terms and could be used to arrest journalists for publishing all manner of information. Furthermore, with penalties of up to seven years in prison for publishing reports that incite treason, secession or subversion, the law would reinforce self-censorship on subjects considered sensitive by the mainland government. After its publication, senior Hong Kong officials warned journalists about the way they use press freedom. Justice minister Elsie Leung on 17 October said any report containing unsourced confidential information would henceforth be treated as a "state secret." The Hong Kong Journalists Association and the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association addressed a statement to the authorities on 24 November calling for the elimination of the more restrictive measures from the proposed law. It was signed by 879 Hong Kong journalist and was backed by 26 international press and human rights groups.
The BBC World Service protested to the Chinese government on 15 October about the jamming of its short-wave radio broadcasts in Uzbek, which affected reception not only in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang but also in Uzbekistan (except in the capital Tashkent). The BBC’s Uzbek service began receiving complaints from listeners in Uzbekistan at the start of 2002, and a technician who was sent to investigate confirmed that the problem was Chinese jamming. The BBC told Reporters Without Borders that the Chinese authorities began on 1 September to systematically jam all three of the short-wave frequencies used for its Uzbek broadcasts. The Chinese government, which did not respond to the BBC, was still jamming all three frequencies at the end of 2002. Its purpose was to prevent these broadcasts being heard by the mostly Uighur Muslim inhabitants of Xinjiang whose language is very close to Uzbek. The BBC’s Uzbek service had recently interviewed Uighur dissidents in exile.
The Chinese government was jamming at least seven foreign services in Tibetan, Mandarin and Uighur at the end of 2002. The Tibetan-language services of Radio Free Asia, Voice of America and Voice of Tibet, and the Uighur-language service of Radio Free Asia told Reporters Without Borders that they had been the target of jamming since the start of 2000 at least. The Tibet Information Network described, in a report published in May 2000, the Chinese government’s determined efforts to prevent the inhabitants of Tibet from listening to foreign Tibetan-language broadcasts, which are very popular there. Complaints have been made to the international authority that regulates the airwaves, but the Chinese government has never respected the undertakings it has given. The US government’s approaches to the Chinese authorities on this subject have also yielded no concrete result.
The government stepped up jamming of Radio Free Asia’s Mandarin service on 1 October, the day the service began broadcasting extracts of "Disidai," a book about the internal workings of the Communist Party leadership as it transfers power to the fourth generation. On 18 October, the authorities arrested a party veteran suspected of revealing information about the party and other "state secrets" to the book’s Chinese author, who uses the pseudonym Zong Hairen.
Delegates were warned against loose talk with the press when the 16th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party began in Beijing on 8 November, although it was officially billed as one of the most open party gatherings ever. Any interview needed a prior request to the press centre, and delegates were not supposed to talk with journalists during the meetings. Only a small number of provincial delegate meetings were open to the press. Reuters said its reporters were snubbed several times by officials at the press centre, while Chinese journalists were threatened with prison sentences for any leak. At a press briefing on the eve of the opening, congress spokesperson Ji Bingxuan said the Chinese media would continue to be the "mouth" of the party, thereby dashing any hope that the new leaders would loosen its grip on the press.
The authorities briefly jammed CNN’s satellite signal on 10 November, thereby censoring a CNN interview with dissident Fang Jue and a mention of the Falun Gong in a programme about the Chinese search for spiritual comfort as an alternative to materialist values.
It was reported on 25 November that Jin Minjuan, an editor with the weekly Shenzhen Zhoukan of the southern city of Shenzhen, was fired at the behest of the propaganda department because of a satirical piece published during the party congress on 10 November that referred to the party’s new leader Hu Jintao as the "puppet" of his predecessor Jiang Zemin. A provincial propaganda chief said there was also an "internal correction" within the newspaper because of the article.
In a speech to the Chinese Language Press Institute on 28 November, Hong Kong’s home affairs secretary Patrick Ho Chi-ping warned journalists that press freedom could die if they violated ethical standards and allowed excessive vulgarity. The Hong Kong Journalists Association accused him of trying to discredit and intimidate the news media.
Ma Ling, the deputy editor of Ta Kung Pao, a pro-Beijing based in Hong Kong, and Li Ming, a reporter with the same newspaper, were pressured by the newspaper’s management at the end of November to halt publication of their biography of China’s new president, Hu Jintao.
The government announced on 7 December that Chinese journalists would henceforth have to pass tests on the press laws and the ideology of the Chinese Communist Party in order to obtain or maintain authorisation to practice their profession. Officials said this would encourage competition and improve standards. In practice, the tests could be used to weed out journalists who do not readily submit to the party’s ideology.