China Media Bulletin: Issue No. 3
A weekly update of press freedom and censorship news related to the People's Republic of China
Issue No. 3: December 14, 2010
* Censors skew coverage of Nobel Prize winner in China
* China tops annual list for imprisoned journalists
* Mao's grandson makes microblogging debut, netizen responses censored
* Nobel push is 'tip of the iceberg' for transnational Chinese censorship
* China's state-run media expand influence in Africa
The New York Times has called Beijing's international campaign to counter the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo "remarkable for its bombast and audacity," but it is at home that such efforts have garnered the most traction. The authorities have instituted pervasive censorship to limit coverage inside China, and smeared the democracy activist as a traitor to provoke nationalist sentiment, an idea reportedly conceived at a special Politburo meeting. On the day of the award ceremony, David Bandurski of the China Media Project found that a total of 40 articles in the mainland Chinese print media mentioned Liu, but 39 were variations of a state-media news item condemning a U.S. congressional resolution to congratulate him. The 40th article was an editorial in Beijing Daily, a Communist Party mouthpiece, criticizing the prize as a "tool of Western values and ideology" and suggesting that the award should instead go to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
While it is difficult to gauge the effectiveness of the party's propaganda push, initial reports indicate that it has largely achieved its aims. An official survey found that 85 percent of university students admitted they knew nothing about Liu or the prodemocracy manifesto Charter 08. An employee of Tencent Group, which owns China's most popular instant messenger, QQ, stated that only 10 percent of people in China had heard of Liu. Beijing's response to the prize matches findings from a report issued in 2009 by Freedom House, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Radio Free Asia on China's censorship and propaganda apparatus, which was authored by Perry Link and Joshua Kurlantzick. The study found that Beijing's information control is not limited to censorship of views it dislikes. Rather, the strategy also involves active cultivation of views the government favors: "Working in tandem, the push and pull components have a powerful influence on public opinion."
* New York Times 12/11/2010: Tirades against Nobel aim at audience in China <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/11/world/asia/11china.html?ref=asia>
* Associated Press 12/8/2010: Some Chinese elude censorship of Nobel Prize news <http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/12/08/ap/tech/main7129141.shtml>
* China Media Project 12/10/2010: A Nobel Peace Prize for Assange? <http://cmp.hku.hk/2010/12/10/8918>
* Guardian 12/10/2010: 'Prejudice and lies will not stand' says Beijing, still furious over Liu Xiaobo's Nobel peace prize <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/10/china-still-furious-over-nobel?INTCMP=SRCH>
* Undermining Democracy: China Report <http://www.underminingdemocracy.org/china>
On December 8, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) published its annual census of imprisoned journalists. China tied with Iran for the top spot, with each registering 34 jailed reporters out of a global total of 145. Increased detention and jailing of Uyghur and Tibetan writers helped China's count rise from 24 in 2009. Given the difficulty of verifying individual cases, the actual number of individuals imprisoned in China for expressing nonviolent opinions online or in print is believed to be significantly higher than that reported in this census.
* Committee to Protect Journalists 12/8/2010: Iran, China drive prison tally to 14-year high <http://cpj.org/reports/2010/12/cpj-journalist-prison-census-iran-china-highest-14-years.php>
Citizen journalist seized after photographing forced eviction
On December 6, Zhou Weilin of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) was taken away by police in Hefei, Anhui province, after he took photographs at the site of a forced eviction. The police also confiscated Zhou's camera and computer. The incident marked the third time in December that Zhou, who uses a wheelchair after being disabled by injuries suffered in a factory, had been harassed by the Hefei authorities.
* CHRD 12/7/2010: Anhui activist seized, questioned after photographing forced eviction <http://chrdnet.org/2010/12/08/china-human-rights-briefing-december-1-7-2010>
Chinese dissident harassed for accepting interviews
On December 1, Qin Yongmin, a cofounder of the China Democracy Party who had recently been released from prison, was seen being harassed by police at his home in the Qinshan district of Wuhan City. The officers verbally abused him for accepting interviews with Chinese and international media including the Associated Press. According to CHRD, the local police had installed three surveillance cameras around his apartment before his release in late November.
* CHRD 12/1/2010 (in Chinese): Recently released Qin in poor health after police verbal abuse <http://news.boxun.com/news/gb/china/2010/12/201012012230.shtml>
Released Mongolian journalist missing, family detained
Prominent Mongolian journalist and human rights activist Hada, along with his family, has been missing since his release from prison on December 10. Hada had completed a 15-year sentence on charges of "separatism," imposed after he published a newspaper called Voice of Southern Mongolia in 1996. The paper demanded equality for the Mongolian population in Inner Mongolia. According to the New York–based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center, on December 4 Hada's son Uiles was brought to Hohhot's local police bureau, where authorities confiscated his mobile telephone. He had reportedly accepted an interview with a foreign media outlet. On the same day, police raided Hada's family-run bookstore, confiscated hundreds of books and CDs, and detained his wife Xinna.
* New York Times 12/13/2010: Mongolian dissident released by China is missing <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/14/world/asia/14china.html>
* China Real Time Report 12/13/2010: Mystery surrounds Mongolian dissident in China <http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2010/12/13/mystery-surrounds-mongolian-dissident-in-china>
NEW MEDIA / TECHNOLOGY NEWS
Nobel Prize keeps China's online censors busy
Since December 10, the empty seat left for Liu Xiaobo in this year's Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony in Oslo has become one of the images consistently censored on the Chinese internet. Phrases such as "empty chair," "empty stool," and "empty table" were consistently deleted by staff at the Sina Weibo microblogging platform, the social-networking website Renren, and other new media applications. In a sign of the pervasiveness of government efforts to quash discussion of the prize, on the day of the ceremony, the most discussed topics on Sina, one of the country's most popular web portals, appeared to be the cold weather and flight delays at Beijing's airport.
* Australian 12/13/2010: Beijing wipes web of photo of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo's empty chair <http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/beijing-wipes-web-of-pic-of-nobel-peace-prize-winner-liu-xiaobos-empty-chair/story-e6frg6so-1225969772445>
* Telegraph 12/10/2010: Nobel peace prize: Beijing under a censorship shroud <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/8194247/Nobel-peace-prize-Beijing-under-a-censorship-shroud.html>
Chinese social-networking firm seeks U.S. listing
On December 10, Reuters reported that Oak Pacific Interactive, a Beijing-based holding company, had hired Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank to handle an initial public offering (IPO) in the United States next year. While most Chinese IPOs in the United States involve the technology and retail sectors, Oak Pacific Interactive, which owns China's popular social-networking website Renren and the Groupon-like site Nuomi, would be the first in a rush of "Chinese Facebook clones" looking to be listed on U.S. stock exchanges. International investment in China's expanding social-networking industry raises legal and moral questions, as these companies are frequently required to censor users' online content in order to retain their business licenses.
* Reuters 12/10/2010: Sources: Chinese social networking firms eye U.S. IPO gold <http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6B90X820101210>
On December 4, Mao Zedong's grandson Mao Xinyu created an account on Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblogging website similar to Twitter. Although he attracted 45,845 followers within four days, netizens reported that they were unable to reply to his first message, which read, "I am hoping to boost communications with a wider group of friends through the Sina microblog." A test message sent by Radio Free Asia reporters was deleted within a few minutes. Bloggers surmised that Sina Weibo had censored the responses to prevent politically sensitive messages, particularly those poking fun at Mao Xinyu-or his grandfather.
* Radio Free Asia 12/8/2010: Mao grandson's first Tweet <http://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/tweet-12082010134507.html>
'Strike hard' campaign targets Uyghur publications
Since mid-November, the Chinese authorities have cracked down on audiovisual materials distributed in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR). According to Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, the authorities have targeted Uyghur-language media, confiscated more than 20,000 "illegal" VCDs, and detained five people for possession of religious education videos. On December 3, Uyghur Online, a popular Uyghur web portal, collapsed under heavy cyberattacks, according to the U.S.-based Boxun news website. Security forces throughout China periodically carry out drives to "strike down illegal publications," but they are especially intense in the XUAR, focusing on the practice of Islam and expressions of dissent.
* Radio Free Asia 12/3/2010: Crackdown launched in Xinjiang <http://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/separatism-12032010123747.html>
In the run-up to the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony on December 10, the Chinese government demonstrated "world leadership" in censorship methods both within and beyond its borders, according to an article in Foreign Policy magazine by Freedom House's Arch Puddington and Christopher Walker. While the anti-Nobel campaign met with mixed success, Puddington and Walker argued that it was only the "tip of the iceberg," citing multiple recent examples of censorship pressure outside China, including in Germany, Taiwan, Australia, and the United States. The authors expressed concern that the Communist Party's use of economic coercion to silence foreign governments and news organizations may become more effective, unless those committed to freedom of speech take steps to resist.
* Democracy Digest 12/10/2010: China's latest pernicious export <http://www.demdigest.net/blog/2010/12/china%E2%80%99s-latest-pernicious-export>
* Foreign Policy 12/10/2010: Censorship without borders <http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/12/10/censorship_without_borders>
Report shows inconsistent support for Liu Xiaobo within EU
On December 7, the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) issued Reactions to Liu Xiaobo's Nobel Peace Prize in Europe, a report documenting the lack of unity within the European Union on challenging the Chinese government's efforts to discredit the prize and its recipient. According to the report, the Czech Republic, France, and Germany took the strongest stances, publishing congratulatory Chinese-language press releases on the websites of their embassies in Beijing. Member states that did not adopt any statement immediately after the award announcement were Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, Romania, and Slovenia.
* International Campaign for Tibet 12/6/2010: ICT report shows diverse opinion in EU on Liu Xiaobo <http://www.savetibet.org/media-center/ict-press-releases/ict-report-shows-one-europe-many-voices-liu-xiaobo>
On December 6, Zimbabwe's media, information, and publicity minister praised China's state-run Xinhua news agency for promoting bilateral media cooperation at the opening of a Xinhua-sponsored photo gallery. Located at the University of Zimbabwe's Confucius Institute, part of China's state-funded network of overseas cultural institutions, the Xinhua photo gallery featured an exhibition on African countries' participation in the Shanghai World Expo that was being shown simultaneously at 10 other galleries in Africa. Previous cooperation included a joint photo exhibit celebrating Chinese-Zimbabwean relations and a training course for Zimbabwean journalists. Like China, Zimbabwe is rated Not Free in Freedom House's annual survey of media freedom. Zimbabwean authorities are believed to have used Chinese technology to jam the signals of increasingly popular foreign-based radio stations that broadcast into Zimbabwe.
* People's Daily Online 12/7/2010: Zimbabwe applauds Xinhua role in promoting media cooperation <http://english.people.com.cn/90001/90776/90883/7222770.html#>
Xinhua's English news channel to launch on three continents
On December 9, the China Xinhua News Network Corporation (CNC) concluded an agreement with the French telecommunications satellite company Eutelsat to broadcast its state-run, English-language channel-CNC World-to Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa starting on January 1, 2011. CNC was created in December 2009 as a CNN-style, 24-hour television news station. In June 2008, Eutelsat suspended Falun Gong–linked New Tang Dynasty TV (NTDTV) from its satellite system for "technical reasons," preventing it from broadcasting to Asia. A recorded conversation between a Eutelsat representative and an investigator pretending to be a Chinese official, published by Reporters Without Borders, revealed that China had conditioned negotiation of large contracts with the company on its termination of services to NTDTV, which is known for its coverage of human rights abuses in China.
* Xinhua 12/9/2010: Xinhua's English TV news channel to launch in Europe, Middle East and North Africa in January 2011 <http://news.xinhuanet.com/2010-12/09/c_13642442.htm>
* Reporters Without Borders 7/10/2010: European satellite operator Eutelsat suppresses independent Chinese language TV station NTDTV to satisfy Beijing <http://en.rsf.org/china-european-satellite-operator-10-07-2008,27818>
* Reporters Without Borders 7/10/2010: Transcript of conversation on NTDTV <http://en.rsf.org/IMG/pdf/Transcript_Eutelsat-2.pdf>