China Media Bulletin: Issue No. 11 | Freedom House

China Media Bulletin: Issue No. 11

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

Issue No. 11: February 24, 2011

* Foreign journalists attacked near activist's home
* Top leaders order tighter internet controls
* Mysterious call for protests in China spurs censorship, arrests
* U.S. embassy's online outreach interrupted
* 'Golden Shield' project nearly complete, says Xinhua

Printable version



Foreign journalists attacked near activist's home

Physical assaults on foreign journalists have recently increased in Dong Shigu Village, Shangdong province, where activist Chen Guangcheng has been under house arrest since his release from prison in September 2010. On February 14, two New York Times reporters were reportedly forced to get out of their vehicle and had some of their equipment broken when they tried to visit Chen. In the following two days, several journalists from French outlets such as Le Monde and Radio France Internationale also encountered thugs who attempted to confiscate and break their equipment. Stan Grant of CNN reported that men threw rocks at him and his crew as they fled the area. Conditions for foreign journalists in China are highly restrictive and include close surveillance and intimidation of sources and assistants, in addition to occasional violence. A 2009 survey by the Foreign Correspondents Club of China found that two-thirds of foreign journalists reported experiencing some official interference in their work.

* Pen American Center 2/17/2011: Pen American Center decries thuggery in attacks on foreign press <>
* Reporters Without Borders 2/16/2011: Three French journalists physically attacked for trying to approach human rights lawyer <,39533.html>
* New York Times 2/19/2011: China's intimidation of dissidents said to persist after prison <>
* Freedom of the Press 2010: China <//>


'Caijing' editor quits to start new magazine

He Li, chief editor of Beijing-based Caijing magazine, announced on February 13 that he is leaving his position to launch a business magazine in June. Caijing is known as one of a few liberal magazines in China, and it frequently carries exclusive and investigative reports that the Chinese government may find politically sensitive. Caijing's former chief editor, Hu Shuli, resigned in November 2009, along with her editorial team, after clashing with the magazine's owner over financing and censorship. It is unclear whether He's departure is due to similar pressures, or what impact his leaving will have on the publication. In recent weeks, another set of liberal publications have come under pressure, particularly the Guangzhou-based Southern Media Group, which is known for its liberal stance despite being state owned. On February 16, prominent writer Mo Zhixu examined the political context behind recent personnel changes at Southern Media Group, including the firing of columnist Chang Ping and the forced resignation of editor Peng Xiaoyun. Mo said the restrictions are not a response to more aggressive reporting, but rather a reflection of diminishing space and official tolerance for those seen as dissenting voices within the system.

* Chinese Media Net 2/13/2011 (in Chinese): Caijing chief He Li editor quits to launch new magazine <>
* Wall Street Journal 11/10/2011: Leading editor quits China's top magazine <>
* Mo Zhixu's Blog 2/16/2011 (in Chinese): Why fixing Southern Media Group? <>



Top leaders order tighter internet controls

On February 12, the day after Hosni Mubarak's resignation as president of Egypt, several Chinese Communist Party Politburo members held a special meeting to discuss events in the Middle East. According to information obtained by China expert Perry Link from internal sources and a summary posted online, a key emphasis of the discussion was propaganda, particularly online. The resulting directives included orders to halt all independent reports on events in Egypt and elsewhere, tighten censorship and criticism of microblogs, and strengthen the guidance of public opinion. Also included were directives to reduce reporting of local "sensitive incidents" and taking measures to prepare for the possibility that part of the internet will be shut down. Within days, the Global Times ran an opinion piece titled "Microblogs Are Not Necessarily Such Great Things." On February 19, Chinese president Hu Jintao demanded stricter government internet oversight while speaking at Beijing's Central Party School, which trains Communist Party leaders. Hu did not mention the unrest in the Middle East, but he urged officials to exert a tighter grip on China's "virtual society" of 450 million netizens.

* New York Review of Books 2/20/2011: The secret politburo meeting behind China's new democracy crackdown <>
* Reuters 2/19/2011: China president calls for more internet oversight <>


Mysterious call for protests in China spurs censorship, arrests

On February 19, an anonymous online message titled "Jasmine Revolution in China" was posted on Boxun, a U.S.-based news website that is blocked inside China. The message bluntly called for demonstrations in 13 cities in China on February 20. Boxun was immediately shut down by cyberattacks, but the message spread quickly on other websites. Searches for "jasmine" were blocked on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like microblog. Entries and status updates to social-networking sites that included the word were also met with warnings of "inappropriate content." On February 20, text-messaging service from the state-owned telecommunication company was temporarily suspended in Beijing. According to the Wall Street Journal, many mobile-telephone users were unable to send messages that included sensitive words such as "Wangfujing," a major shopping district where Beijing protesters were encouraged to meet. The online controls were matched with an offline crackdown that involved the questioning or arbitrary detention of at least 100 lawyers and activists, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy. At least one lawyer, Liu Shihui, was severely beaten and stabbed in the legs by unidentified thugs when waiting for a bus to visit one of the locations named in the online postings.

* Guardian 2/20/2011: China detains activists after online call for protests <>
* Associated Press 2/20/2011: China tries to stamp out 'Jasmine Revolution' <>
* Wall Street Journal 2/22/2011: China co-opts social media to head off unrest <>
* New York Times 2/24/2011: Activists call for a "Jasmine Revolution" in China <>
* Chinese Human Rights Defenders 2/21/2011: Guangzhou lawyer Liu Shihui brutally beaten on roadside ahead of "Jasmine Revolution" protests <>


Wife of Nobel Peace Prize winner breaks silence

On February 17, Liu Xia, the wife of jailed 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, broke her silence after four months and told a friend in an online chat that she felt "miserable." She has been under house arrest since her husband was announced as the Nobel winner in October 2010, and her communications, including internet and mobile-phone service, have been cut off. The Washington Post was given an unverified transcript of the five-minute chat.

* Washington Post 2/20/2011: Wife of detained Chinese Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo says she, family are 'hostages' <>


U.S. embassy's online outreach interrupted

The growing efforts of the U.S. embassy in Beijing to interact with Chinese netizens ran up against censors on February 16, the day after U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton called for internet freedom in China. Clinton's speech got little press coverage inside China, and censors quickly deleted the U.S. embassy's microblog posts asking Chinese internet users to provide feedback on her address. It is unclear whether the deletions were due to Chinese government directives or preemptive measures by the hosting platforms Tencent and Sina. Meanwhile, prominent Beijing-based blogger Qiao Mu said the administrators of his Sina account had removed his writing and sent him a warning after he released 10 posts on Clinton's speech. On February 16, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ma Zhaoxu reiterated the claim that Chinese internet users are "unrestrained" as long as they abide by the law.

* Wall Street Journal 2/17/2011: U.S. boosts web freedom efforts in China, Iran <>
* Reuters 2/17/2011: China censors U.S. posts on internet freedom <>


Father of Great Firewall urges thicker barrier

On February 18, Fan Binxing, considered the chief architect of China's so-called Great Firewall, told the Chinese Communist Party–run English newspaper Global Times that the Chinese government should bolster its internet controls. Fang, who serves as president of the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, said he often uses virtual private networks (VPNs), one of several circumvention tools, to check whether his creation, which he defended as a "pressing necessity," effectively blocks sensitive online content. According to Agence France-Presse, Fang had created a Sina microblog in December last year, but comments made by thousands of angry Chinese netizens forced him to close the account within days.

* McClatchy 2/18/2011: Great Firewall's creator says China should bolster internet controls <>
* Agence France-Presse 2/18/2011: Firewall architect admits skirting China barriers <>
* Global Times 2/18/2011: Great Firewall father speaks out <>


Authorities put brakes on anti-kidnapping movement

On February 15, according to Radio France Internationale, the Central Propaganda Department issued a censorship directive on the recent movement against child abduction in China. The authorities urged Chinese media to reduce coverage and help "cool down" public opinion, as the campaign had a "strong degree of sensitivity." The movement was initiated by a professor of social sciences, Yu Jianrong, in January. He had created a microblog that encouraged Chinese netizens to take pictures of child beggars-presumably abducted children being exploited by their captors-and post them on the site as a means of raising social awareness of the issue. In recent weeks, several parents were reportedly reunited with missing children as a result of the project.

* Radio France Internationale 2/16/2011: Authorities issue media directive on coverage of anti-child abduction movement (in Chinese) <>
* Financial Times 2/9/2011: Blog campaign to trace children grips China <>
* Yu Jianrong's microblog (in Chinese): <>


'Golden Shield' project nearly complete, says Xinhua

China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported on February 16 that the Ministry of Public Security is close to completing 'Golden Shield,' its nationwide public surveillance and information-monitoring network. The system currently encompasses 32 provincial bureaus and 99 percent of 70,000 local police stations. Xinhua added that the system will bolster the detecting and monitoring of crimes and increase police integration with other government agencies. According to early research reports, the Golden Shield project was intended to include a nationwide database of Chinese citizens, facial-recognition technology that could match images from surveillance cameras with files in the database, and further development of the Great Firewall censorship system.

* China Scope 2/18/2011: China's "Golden Shield" has over 99% coverage of the Public Security Information Network <>
* Xinhua 2/16/2011 (in Chinese): China's public security network covers most local police stations <>
* Rights & Democracy 2001: China's golden shield <>


Latest censorship directives cover real estate, fuel prices, WikiLeaks, and more

A series of alleged censorship directives recently issued by the State Council Information Office and the Communist Party's Propaganda Department and reported by China Digital Times cover a range of topics, including ones related to economic policy. The instructions order websites, social media platforms, and mobile-phone providers to delete messages and restrict discussion of fuel price increases announced by government, an anti-Japanese sign that appeared in the background of a state-run television soccer broadcast, and WikiLeaks documents related to the Foreign Ministry. Some directives require proactive promotion of the "positive" achievements of government agencies. One order from February 2010 reads: "regarding regulation and control of the real estate market, all websites must successfully lead public opinion and propaganda. They must actively promote [efforts by] the CCP and State Council to resolutely restrain rapid increases in real-estate prices."

* China Digital Time 2/23/2011: Latest directives from the Ministry of Truth <>



China-based cyberattacks hit Canadian government

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported on February 16 that a series of cyberattacks from China had targeted the Canadian Finance Department, the Treasury Board, and Defence Research and Development Canada since early January. Canadian counterespionage agents said that while the attacks were traced back to computer servers in China, they were unable to verify whether the perpetrators were Chinese or simply directed their attacks through China. The raids provided the hackers with access to highly classified information and involved posing as government officials sending e-mail messages to other staff. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ma Zhaoxu said at a press conference on February 17 that the allegation was groundless, as China has also been a victim of cyberattacks.

* CBC News 2/16/2011: Foreign hackers attack Canadian government <>
* Global Times 2/18/2011: Chinese refutes 'hacker' accusation <>



Annual report by Committee to Protect Journalists

On February 15, the New York–based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) published its annual Attacks on the Press 2010 survey. In the China chapter, CPJ notes the increased crackdown on Tibetan and Uighur journalists and the Chinese government's lip service to media reform. The survey's internet analysis section highlights cases of foreign correspondents in China being targeted for e-mail hacking.

* Attacks on the Press 2010: China <>


New issue of 'China Rights Forum'

The New York–based Human Rights in China (HRIC) recently released the fourth-quarter 2010 issue of China Rights Forum, its English-language journal on human rights developments in China. Among the articles is a piece by Chinese human rights lawyer Teng Biao, in which he highlights the role of the internet and documentary filmmaking in breaking the official monopoly on information and generating momentum for social movements.

* China Rights Forum 2010, No. 4-Like Water Piercing Rock: Pressing for Change in China <>


'New Yorker' interview with internet expert Rebecca MacKinnon

On February 22, the New Yorker's Evan Osnos published a recent interview with Rebecca MacKinnon, an expert on the internet in China. The interview covers recent debates surrounding U.S. government funding for internet freedom initiatives, the attitude of Chinese entrepreneurs and executives toward censorship, and the need for democratic governments to develop best-practice models for meeting challenges like fighting terrorism and protecting children while preserving free expression and privacy online.

* New Yorker 2/22/2011: Q. &. A. with Rebecca Mackinnon: Internet in China <>