China Media Bulletin: Issue No. 2 | Freedom House

China Media Bulletin: Issue No. 2

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

Issue No. 2: December 7, 2010

HIGHLIGHTS
* Japanese news report on Nobel Peace Prize blacked out in China
* WikiLeaks reporting censored, cables hint at Politburo involvement in Google attacks
* Beijing activist detained for "inciting subversion" after posting Tiananmen photo online
* Shooting incident sparks debate in Taiwan over election coverage
* China Daily embedded in U.S. news website, launched in Europe

Printable version

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BROADCAST / PRINT MEDIA NEWS

Japanese news report on Nobel Peace Prize blacked out in China

On December 5, the Chinese authorities disrupted a Japanese-language news program aired by NHK, Japan’s national public broadcaster, when it began to report on Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo and the upcoming award ceremony. NHK is primarily available in hotels and residential areas for foreigners in China. According to reporters in Beijing, the program experienced another blackout when participants mentioned recent allegations that the Chinese leadership was behind a cyber attack on Google.

* Kyodo News 12/6/2010: China disrupts NHK report on Nobel Prize Ceremony: <http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/china-disrupts-nhk-report-on-nobel-prize-ceremony>

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Provincial television outpaces national state-run TV in China

Despite the launch of new Chinese Central Television (CCTV) channels, for a total of 15, provincial state-owned broadcasters that are able to distribute one channel nationally are seeing their share of viewers grow quickly, surpassing CCTV in 2010. Though the provincial stations are not as tightly controlled by Beijing, the central government’s influence on them is still evident. Periodic decisions by the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT) have limited the use of text-message voting in popular talent shows and negative expressions on dating programs. Almost every channel, whether commercial or state run, still carries CCTV’s evening news at 7:00 p.m.

* Economist 11/18/2010: China’s got viewers <http://www.economist.com/node/17522454>

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Chinese dissident released, writings confiscated

On November 29, Qin Yongmin, cofounder of the China Democracy Party (CDP), was released in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, upon completing a 12-year prison term for “subverting state power.” The conviction stemmed from the CDP’s attempt to register in 1998. In a telephone interview, Qin told the Associated Press that security officers had confiscated a lengthy manuscript he wrote while in prison. “I tried to tell them it was illegal, but they just stole everything I had written,” Qin said. They also warned him not to speak to reporters upon release.

* The China Post 11/30/2010: Chinese dissident released, has writings confiscated <http://chinapost.com.tw/china/national-news/2010/11/30/281820/Chinese-dissident.htm>
* China Human Rights Defenders 11/30/2010: 12 years later, democracy leader released from prison <http://chrdnet.org/2010/12/02/china-human-rights-briefing-november-24-30-2010>

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Belated account of Falun Gong television interception highlights impact, fate of activists

An account by Ethan Gutmann of a 2002 incident in which Falun Gong practitioners hijacked television broadcasts in Changchun, Jilin province, has revealed details on the fate of those involved in the effort, which was aimed at countering the Chinese government’s anti–Falun Gong propaganda. The activists used technical means to replace regular programming on eight channels for 50 minutes. Shown instead was footage of Falun Gong being practiced around the world and videos analyzing inconsistencies in an alleged self-immolation incident on Tiananmen Square. The broadcast reportedly sparked celebrations in some parts of the city, and some thought the ban on the spiritual group had been reversed. According to Gutmann, all six of the activists involved were ultimately tortured to death in police custody, with the most recent fatality occurring in May 2010, and others dying within hours of being detained in 2002.

* Weekly Standard 11/27/2010: Into thin airwaves <http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/thin-airwaves_519589.html?page=1>

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NEW MEDIA / TECHNOLOGY NEWS

WikiLeaks reporting censored, cables hint at Politburo involvement in Google attacks

Since late November, the Chinese authorities have sought to block access to WikiLeaks and ordered Chinese news media not to report on the organization’s mass release of U.S. diplomatic cables, though China is reportedly the fifth most mentioned country. Leaked documents suggest that increased government pressure on Google, including orders to three state-run firms to stop doing business with the company, was initiated after party propaganda chief Li Changchun searched his name on Google’s main international website and found “results critical of him.” At least one other cable indicated that the Politburo, the Communist Party’s highest organ, had directly overseen a hacking operation against Google in 2009, though an investigation by the New York Times found that the original source lacked solid evidence to support that claim.

* New York Times 12/4/2010: Vast hacking by a China fearful of the web < http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/05/world/asia/05wikileaks-china.html?pagewanted=1&_r=3>
* AFP 11/28/2010: China directed Google hacking <http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5guVse87DQ-PhutAFYqUN0gCsg-_w>
* Guardian 12/5/2010: WikiLeaks: Google attacks ordered by Li Changchun <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/05/the-us-embassy-cables-china>

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Investigative article on Chinese censorship banned

On November 24, “The World of Guaranteed Internet Safety,” an article by CBN Weekly (Diyi Caijing Zhoukan) about the Chinese government’s approach to internet censorship, was banned online and in print. The article describes the activities of the Beijing-based Bureau of Website Administrators, including its forced shutdown of two websites: Wanju Wang, a news-sharing site similar to Digg.com, and Shiguang Wang, an online movie database. Zheng Yun, founder of Wanju Wang, said he had often self-censored items on the site so that only “appropriate content” would get reposted. Ho Kai Wen of Shiguang Wang said the movie database’s closure was unexpected. According to Shen Yang Evening News, the shutdown was caused by Shiguang Wang’s overall poor ratings of government-sponsored Chinese films.

* Reporters Without Borders 11/25/2010: Debate on internet censorship censored <http://en.rsf.org/chine-debate-on-internet-censorship-30-11-2010,38918.html>
* GoveCN 11/20/2010 (In Chinese): The world of guaranteed internet safety <http://www.govecn.org/2010/11/blog-post_9205.html>

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Chinese microblog website reappears with limited functionality

Fanfou, a Chinese Twitter-style website that was shut down after the violence in Xinjiang last year, resumed operation on November 25, but its website is still not fully functional. Member registration is by invitation only, and the link to the relevant page is missing from the homepage. The service appears to be censoring content. Ai Weiwei, a prominent Chinese artist and online activist, said his account had lasted only one night. Duncan Clark, chairman of the consulting firm BDA China, said Fanfou will need to “play by the [government’s] rules” to succeed.

* Wall Street Journal 11/28/2010: Return of the China Twitter clone <http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2010/11/28/return-of-the-china-twitter-clone>

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Overseas Chinese Christian website hit with cyber attacks

On November 30, the ChinaAid Association, a U.S.-based nonprofit that monitors religious persecution and abuse against Christians in China, reported that its twin Chinese-language websites had collapsed under heavy cyber attacks. Large amounts of malicious traffic had caused the websites’ server to crash. It was impossible to definitively establish who was behind the attacks.

* Persecution.org 12/2/2010: ChinaAid website collapsed under malicious cyber attacks <http://www.persecution.org/2010/12/02/chinaaid-websites-collapse-under-repeated-malicious-cyber-attacks>

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Beijing activist detained for “inciting subversion” after posting Tiananmen photo online

On November 27, Bai Dongping, a rights activist, was detained in Beijing on charges of “inciting subversion” after he posted a photo of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on a Chinese web forum. Bai’s wife, Yang Dan, said he had previously been taken out of Beijing or told to stay home on days of high-profile events, but had never been formally arrested before. Bai is known for helping rural petitioners to air their grievances to officials in Beijing. The charge of “inciting subversion” is commonly used by Chinese security agencies to punish nonviolent activists, typically drawing prison sentences of at least three years following unfair trials.

* Associated Press 11/30/2010: Chinese activist detained after posting 1989 photo <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/30/AR2010113000229.html>

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Writer interrogated after online event invite

On November 18, Xia Shang, a writer who launched a campaign to lay flowers in commemoration of victims of a November 15 fire in Shanghai, was taken into police custody after 1,654 people confirmed plans to participate on his microblog. Xia said the post was initially removed and later reappeared. A two-hour interrogation focused more on a post citing rumors that a poor response to what was initially a small fire led to the later tragedy. Xia was released and carried out the planned event the next day with hundreds of others. Xiao Qiang, editor in chief of U.S.-based China Digital Times, said that there are “way above 50,000” government employees and paid citizens who routinely monitor and censor internet communications in China.

* New York Times 11/25/2010: Caught in an authoritarian moment <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/26/world/asia/26iht-letter.html?ref=china>

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TIBET & XINJIANG

Tibetan writer’s online accounts hacked

On November 23, Woeser, a prominent Beijing-based Tibetan writer, reported that she was unable to log in to her Gmail account, Facebook profile, Twitter account, or personal blog, The Middle Way. Currently in Lhasa under tight police surveillance, Woeser said she regained access to Twitter and Facebook, but her blog, which had experienced numerous attacks before, was still down. Woeser recently published an article in support of protests led by students inside Tibet to demand that classes be taught in Tibetan instead of Mandarin.

* Radio Free Asia 11/23/2010: Tibetan writer’s blog hacked <http://www.rfa.org/english/news/tibet/woeser-11232010111803.html>

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BEYOND CHINA

Shooting incident sparks debate in Taiwan over election coverage

On the evening of November 26, the day before Taiwan’s 2010 municipal elections, Sean Lien, son of Kuomintang (KMT) honorary chairman Lien Chan, was injured after being shot in the face at a KMT campaign rally. Media outlets affiliated with both ends of the political spectrum have since faced criticism for skewed coverage of the incident. SET Taiwan and Formosa TV, two Taiwanese news channels viewed as sympathetic to the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, were criticized for “cooling the headline” by delaying reporting of the shooting. Meanwhile, the National Communications Commission, Taiwan’s media regulatory body, has filed three cases with the Central Election Committee, asking it to determine whether the more KMT-aligned China Television, ETTV, and CtiTV had violated the election law by reporting political news on the day of the election, including reruns of Lien’s pre-shooting speech and material that combined news of the shooting with footage of KMT candidates campaigning.

* China Times 11/28/2010 (In Chinese): Taiwan TV channels criticized for cooling breaking news <http://news.chinatimes.com/focus/0,5243,50107369x112010112800359,00.html>
* Liberty Times 12/2/2010 (In Chinese): Taiwan TV channels violated law in election eve <http://www.libertytimes.com.tw/2010/new/dec/2/today-t1.htm>

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China Daily embedded in U.S. news website, launched in Europe

Since 2009, the Washington Post’s website has included “China Watch,” a paid supplement presented by China Daily, China’s state-run English newspaper. The government-backed editorial space, “seamlessly embedded into the broader publication,” claims to provide American readers with news and analysis about Chinese business, society, and culture. However, the “About Us” statement of the section does little to inform readers of China Daily’s nature as a Chinese government mouthpiece. On December 3, China Daily launched a weekly European edition available online and in print in nine cities, including London and Brussels. Renzhong Zhi, the newspaper’s general manager, said the weekly issue will be a useful source for European businesses seeking to better understand China. Both developments are part of a broader push by Chinese state-owned media to expand into Western markets, designed in part to improve impressions of the ruling Communist Party and its human rights record.

* Nieman Journalism Lab 12/1/2010: State-run papers from China buy advertorial section on the Washington Post website <http://www.niemanlab.org/2010/12/state-run-papers-from-china-and-russia-buy-convincing-advertorial-sections-on-the-wapos-website>
* Washington Post China Watch: <http://chinawatch.washingtonpost.com>
* Guardian 12/3/2010: China Daily launches Europe issue <http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2010/dec/03/china-newspapers>
* China Daily Europe: <http://europe.chinadaily.com.cn>