China Media Bulletin: Issue No. 10 | Freedom House

China Media Bulletin: Issue No. 10

A weekly update of press freedom and censorship news related to the People's Republic of China

Issue No. 10: February 17, 2011

* Chinese media cautiously cover Mubarak's resignation
* Censors and rivals keep Facebook out of reach in China
* State plan to corral cybercafes threatens anonymity
* Activist beaten for releasing video of house arrest
* U.S. senators warn of Chinese lead on public diplomacy

Printable version



Chinese media cautiously cover Mubarak’s resignation

Although most Chinese newspapers and online portals have run only short reports on the resignation of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, overall coverage of political developments in Egypt has increased compared with the extensive censorship imposed on earlier reports of antigovernment protests. On February 13, the state-run news agency Xinhua published articles on Mubarak’s resignation that included photographs of Egyptians cheering on Tahrir Square in Cairo, and some local publications featured the news on their front pages. On February 12, the Beijing-based business magazine Caixin boldly wrote on its website that “it is autocracy that creates chaos, while democracy breeds peace.” State-run media nevertheless emphasized the “uncertainty” of the situation in Egypt. Hong Kong–based political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-sui opined that Beijing had to allow more reporting “in order to show its confidence in ruling China.” In an indication of Chinese readers’ interest in the topic, South China Morning Post reported that “Egyptian president” was one of the top 20 searched phrases on the Chinese search engine Baidu over the weekend.

* South China Morning Post 2/13/2011: Mainland media steps up coverage cautiously <>
* Los Angeles Times 2/13/2011: Beijing looks warily at Egypt uprising <,0,3391862.story>
* China Daily 2/12/2011: Uncertainty clouds jubilation in Egypt <>



Activist beaten for releasing video of house arrest

On February 9, Chen Guangcheng, a self-taught, blind lawyer who has been under house arrest since his release from prison in September 2010, revealed his situation in a home video released through the U.S.-based rights group China Aid. Chen said that his communications have been cut off, and that his home, situated in Dong Shigu Village in Shandong province, is surrounded by surveillance cameras and devices that deflect mobile-telephone signals. According to China Aid and Chinese Human Rights Defenders, Chen and his wife were severely beaten by the police following the public release of the video, which was smuggled out despite the 24-hour security presence around the house. Zhai Minglei, a former reporter at the Chinese newspaper Southern Weekend, said “this feat proves that…people can reach free ground via technology and the internet.” Starting in April 2005, Chen had been providing legal services to villagers who faced forced sterilization and late-term abortions in connection with China’s one-child policy. He was sentenced to four years and three months in prison in August 2006 after he granted an interview to Time magazine.

* CNN 2/11/2011: Rights groups: prominent Chinese activist and wife beaten <>
* Yi Bao 2/10/2011: Breaking the blockage: Face to face with Chen Guangcheng (in Chinese) <>
* China Aid 2/9/2011: A video shows blind activist perseveres under house arrest <>


Censors and rivals keep Facebook out of reach in China

Following Facebook’s February 9 announcement that it would open a sales office in Hong Kong, its Chinese competitors said the social-networking site would have trouble expanding to the mainland, where it is currently blocked. Jeffrey Zheng, a general manager at the Chinese social-networking site Renren, noted that other foreign internet companies like Yahoo! and Google had thus far been unsuccessful at penetrating the Chinese market. While Zheng attributed this largely to cultural differences, censorship practices have also been a key factor. Zheng stated that Renren had 500 people in the medium-sized city of Wuhan alone whose task was to delete politically sensitive content posted by users. According to online statistics, despite the increasing popularity of circumvention tools, only about 721,000 of China’s 420 million internet users have Facebook accounts. By comparison, Renren says it has 170 million users, a testament to the Communist Party’s success in obstructing international social-networking sites and favoring local, politically compliant alternatives.

* South China Morning Post 2/13/2011: Social media finding ways around censors <>
* Agence France-Presse 2/13/2011: Rivals say Facebook could be tough sell in China <>
* Socialbakers: China Facebook statistics <>


State plan to corral cybercafes threatens anonymity 

China’s Ministry of Culture, which oversees licensing for cybercafes, announced in January that sole-proprietorships in the industry would be merged into chains by 2015. According to South China Morning Post, prominent Hunan-based blogger Zuola said the move would pose a threat to Chinese netizens who wish to remain anonymous. He noted that chains could be expected to share detailed information with local police about what their clients have browsed or typed, whereas individually owned cafes were more likely to skirt regulations requiring surveillance of users’ browsing history. Huang Peihong, vice chairman of a Guangdong-based cybercafe business association, admitted that customers need to have their identity card scanned and sent to the local police bureau before they could go online. Any violations, including using a fake identity, could result in a fine of up to 15,000 yuan (US$2,270).

* Straits Times 2/9/2011: China’s internet cafes face clampdown
* Xinhua 1/12/2011: China to eliminate stand-alone cybercafes within next five years (in Chinese)
* Freedom on the Net 2009: China <//>



Tibetan singer released from jail

On February 8, popular Tibetan singer Tashi Dhondup was released from jail in Xining, capital of Qinghai province, after serving most of a 15-month sentence for recording and distributing songs that called for Tibetan independence. He was detained on December 3, 2009, after thousands of copies of his albums, titled 58 and Torture Without Trace, were found in Xining’s local markets. According to overseas Tibetan groups, the Chinese government has arrested over 60 local intellectuals and cultural figures since 2008, as their expressions of Tibetan identity are considered a threat to China's state security.

* Tibet Post 2/11/2011: Tibetan singer released from Chinese jail <>


Travel ban extended to Uighur intellectual’s family

On February 8, Ilham Tohti, a prominent Uighur professor at Beijing Central Nationalities University and founder of the minority rights website Uyghur Online, told Radio Free Asia that he and his family had received a travel ban from the Public Security Bureau in Beijing in December. Tohti had been barred from leaving the capital since May 2009, but the new ban extended those restrictions to his wife and children, including a daughter who was preparing to attend school in the United States. Tohti’s mobile-telephone number and e-mail access have been disabled, and his website, which is inaccessible within China, is a frequent target of cyberattacks. It is a common practice for Chinese security agencies to punish whole families with travel restrictions, surveillance, and even beatings, in an effort to pressure individuals to cease their activism.

* Radio Free Asia 2/10/2011: Travel ban extends to family <>
* Radio Free Asia 12/15/2010: Prominent Uyghur writer, family held <>
* China Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) 2/11/2011: Chinese government must end persecution of family members of activists <>


Mongolian writer missing after hospitalization

On January 27, Mongolian writer, blogger, and activist Govruud Huuchinhuu went missing following her release from a hospital in Tongliao City, Inner Mongolia. According to Cheel Borjigin, the writer’s daughter, Huuchinhuu was told by the police that she would be taken to a guesthouse or a hotel after she recovered from her stroke. Huuchinhuu had been held under house arrest since November 11, 2010, after she organized a rally welcoming the release of Mongolian political dissident Hada. Her mobile telephone and notebooks were confiscated, and her books The Stone-hearted Tree and Silent Stone were recently banned by the Chinese authorities.

* Radio Free Asia 2/8/2011: Dissident writer missing <>



Chinese writers barred from traveling to Taiwan book fair

China’s General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), which enforces state media regulations, reportedly prevented writers Han Shaogong and Alai from attending Taiwan’s annual Taipei International Book Exhibition (TIBE) on February 9. The two writers, who are also chairpersons of the Hainan and Sichuan provincial chapters of the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles, a Chinese Communist Party-backed group, were forced to cancel their visits due to delayed approval for related documentation. Lin Tsai-chueh, chief editor of Taiwan Linking Publishing Company, said the writers’ official positions and the fact that the book event was nominally “international,” potentially implying a separate “national” status for Taiwan, may have raised political sensitivities at the GAPP.

* China Times 2/10/2011: Writers canceled scheduled appearance at Taiwan book fair (in Chinese) <>
* Foreign Policy 12/10/2010: Censorship without borders <>


Oil firms hit by Chinese cyberespionage

On February 10, the U.S.-based cybersecurity firm McAfee released a report indicating that a series of cyberattacks from China, dubbed “Night Dragon,” had targeted at least five undisclosed multinational energy companies over the past year. McAfee found that the attacks had succeeded in capturing sensitive information, including plans for drilling at specific locations, which would be of value to competitors. The raids were carried out repeatedly by a group of hackers working from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Beijing time. “These were company worker bees, not freestyle hackers,” said Dmitri Alperovitch, a researcher at McAfee. It was unclear whether the attacks were carried out with government support.

* Financial Times 2/10/2011: Chinese hackers hit energy groups <>
A weekly update of press freedom and censorship news related to the People's Republic of China
* Wall Street Journal 2/10/2011: Oil firms hit by hackers from China, report says <>


U.S. senators warn of Chinese lead on public diplomacy

On February 15, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations released a report, titled Another U.S. Deficit—China and America—Public Diplomacy in the Age of the Internet, that calls for increased U.S. government efforts to counter China’s internet censorship as well as Chinese public diplomacy projects like the Confucius Institutes, of which there are 71 in the United States alone. Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, the top Republican on the committee who issued the report, noted that Beijing has exported its censorship technologies to repressive countries including Iran and Belarus, and is using state-run media and cultural institutes to spread biased or selective information about the Chinese government to foreign audiences. Meanwhile, the Chinese authorities engage in consistent efforts to block its citizens’ access to U.S.-funded media like Radio Free Asia and Voice of America. A screenshot enclosed in the congressional report’s appendix shows that when the term “Radio Free Asia” is entered into Baidu, a leading Chinese search engine, no results are returned.

* Foreign Policy 2/15/2011: Lugar: U.S. failing to combat internet censorship by China <>
* Agence France-Presse 2/13/2011: US committee: Counter China information drive <>
* Senate Committee on Foreign Relations 2/15/2011: Another U.S. deficit—China and America—Public diplomacy in the age of the internet <>


Chinese telecom giant defends deal to buy U.S. patents

Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, said on February 14 that it would not voluntarily unravel its May 2010 acquisition of patents and other assets from the California-based technology company 3Leaf Systems. Huawei is thereby defying a decision by the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment, which conducts classified security reviews of prospective foreign takeovers of U.S. assets, to recommend that U.S. president Barack Obama order the deal’s reversal. The White House was set to rule on whether to accept the nonbinding recommendation, and Chinese government officials urged the United States to treat Chinese companies “fairly.” Huawei, the world’s second-largest vendor of telecommunications equipment after Sweden’s Ericsson, was founded by a former Chinese military officer and is known for its strong ties with the Chinese Communist Party.

* Financial Times 2/17/2011: China appeals to US over Huawei <>
* Wall Street Journal 2/11/2011: Panel likely to recommend reversing Huawei deal <>