China Media Bulletin: Issue No. 40 | Freedom House

China Media Bulletin: Issue No. 40

Freedom House’s weekly update of press freedom and censorship news related to the People’s Republic of China

Issue No. 40: November 17, 2011

* Aided by donations, Ai Weiwei pays deposit to appeal tax case
* Advertisers flock to state TV after curbs on entertainment shows
* Controversial Confucius Peace Prize awarded to Vladimir Putin
* Falun Gong radio operators imprisoned in Vietnam
* As China’s state media expand, U.S. bill calls for visa limits

Printable version



U.S. envoy's hometown visit draws enthusiasm, censorship

A recent three-day visit (November 2–4) by U.S. ambassador Gary Locke to his ancestral village of Jilong in Taishan, Guangdong Province, has sparked another round of public excitement. Ever since Locke arrived in Beijing in August, Chinese netizens have been talking about his ordinary lifestyle, including carrying his own backpack and travelling in economy class, which contrasts sharply with the privileges enjoyed by Chinese officials. State-run media have responded to netizen admiration by calling Locke's behavior a calculated "neocolonialist plot." However, the U.S. envoy told Chinese reporters that the media spotlight on him was "totally unexpected." Two Chinese reporters have further confirmed the government's wariness of Locke's popularity, revealing that they had been warned by the propaganda authorities not to "hype" his Guangdong trip. Indeed, while a small local newspaper ran a question-and-answer article with the ambassador on the front page, the Guangzhou Daily, which has a much larger circulation, buried a short story about Locke on page 10, and the national Xinhua news agency apparently did not cover the visit. Locke's trip to the village was reported live on the U.S. embassy's account on the popular Chinese microblogging service Sina Weibo, and that coverage drew thousands of comments and reposts within one day. In a video clip, Locke stressed his Chinese ancestry with a brief greeting in Taishan dialect.

* New York Times 11/11/2011: Chinese, but not their leaders, flock to U.S. envoy <
* National Public Radio 11/4/2011: For envoy to China, the personal and political mix <
* Voice of America 11/3/2011 (in Chinese): Locke causes stir via live microblog broadcast <


Aided by donations, Ai Weiwei pays deposit to appeal tax case

On November 15, prominent Chinese blogger and artist Ai Weiwei handed over some 8.7 million yuan ($1.3 million) to the Beijing Local Taxation Bureau as a deposit in his tax evasion case. Two weeks earlier he had been ordered to make the payment by that deadline in order to continue his appeal of the overall tax bill of $2.4 million (see CMB No. 39). Though Ai had suggested creating a joint account, the authorities insisted on being the sole recipient. They also refused to take Ai's family assets as collateral for the rest of the tax demand. After Ai received the order to surrender the funds on November 1, more than 30,000 people donated via bank transfers, and others folded cash into paper airplanes and tossed it over a wall and into the artist's compound in Beijing. The Chinese Communist Party–run Global Times immediately criticized his "illegal fundraising," noting that it was supported by "an extremely small number" of people compared with China's total population. Ai appeared to be deeply moved by the mobilization of so many people on his behalf. Upon request by his supporters, to whom Ai vowed to pay back the donated money, he recorded and posted online a performance in which he mocked China's media censorship (click China Digital Times link below for video). The artist told journalists that he felt "upset and helpless" over the whole process, but also observed that "being afraid will not help me."

* BBC 11/15/2011: Chinese artist Ai Weiwei pays bond to appeal tax demand <>
* Wall Street Journal 11/14/2011: Ai Weiwei donations hit $1.37 million, enough to challenge tax charges <
* China Digital Times 11/15/2011: Ai Weiwei faces obstructions, threats as payment deadline looms <
* Globe and Mail 11/14/2011: Ai Weiwei: Artist's fearlessness draws others to his fight <
* New York Times 11/6/2011: Online and by paper airplane, contributions pour into Chinese dissident <


Violence against media highlighted on Journalists' Day

On November 8, International Journalists' Day, the Chinese Communist Party–run China Youth Daily featured a report on Fujian-based television journalist Deng Cunyao, who was stabbed while leaving work on October 18 last year, after he uncovered a scandal surrounding a local hospital. The paper said its report on the incident was meant to highlight violence against journalists, who need more support because they "represent the will of the public and conscience of society." Indeed, violence and harassment aimed at journalists in China have risen in recent years, with two new incidents reported in recent weeks. On October 28, Cai Sheng and Wang Shaoyang, two reporters at Radio and Television Shanghai, were attacked by more than 10 thugs in an electronics store in Hengshui, Hebei Province. Several cars had arrived soon after the shop owner found that the two reporters were there to investigate bribery and misconduct by guards at the nearby Shenzhou Prison. One unidentified man struck Cai on the head with an iron bar, causing him to be hospitalized. Separately, on October 30, Xun Xuyang, a reporter at Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily, was briefly held by authorities in Zhumadian, Henan Province, while investigating the case of a local police chief who allegedly struck eight pedestrians while driving drunk, with five later dying.

* FMN Now 10/29/2011 (in Chinese): Shanghai journalists beaten while investigating Hebei Shenzhou prison chaos <>
* China Media Project 11/8/2011: A chilling tale for Journalists Day <>
* IFEX 11/3/2011: Central government must prevent media harassment, says IFJ <>


Advertisers flock to state TV after curbs on entertainment shows

On November 8, nearly 250 Chinese and foreign companies participated in an annual multibillion-dollar advertising auction by state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV). They collectively agreed to pay the station a record-high 14.26 billion yuan ($2.25 billion) to air their commercials in 2012. Bank of China reportedly committed to spend 76 million yuan next year on a 10-second commercial, which will be aired daily after the CCTV evening news in January and February. Some analysts said CCTV was benefiting from recently announced restrictions on entertainment programming that effectively reduced competition from popular satellite television stations based in the provinces, reinforcing CCTV's status as "the most effective way to reach China's consumers," according to one ad-agency executive (see CMB No. 38). However, according to Innovative Finance Observation, a Tianjin-based party-run paper, the entertainment restrictions also contributed to higher rates for some ads on China's 34 satellite television stations, because advertiser competition has increased for slots surrounding the reduced number of popular entertainment shows.

* Wall Street Journal 11/9/2011: CCTV's ad-sales auction draws record bids <
* Innovative Finance Observation 11/13/2011 (in Chinese): Entertainment restriction order pushes television ad sales growth <>


Duty to Communist Party stressed as Xinhua turns 80

China's state-run Xinhua news agency marked its 80th anniversary on November 7. During a speech at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Li Changchun, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) propaganda chief and a Politburo Standing Committee member, called on Xinhua to guide public opinion in a manner favorable to the Chinese authorities. He said the news agency bears an "important responsibility" in the implementation of "cultural reforms," the key goal to emerge from a closed-door CCP summit in October. He urged Xinhua to remove public doubts, particularly when it came to issues like "the Party's ruling position." The agency's content and personnel decisions are tightly controlled by the CCP, and reporting often strays from the truth or vilifies the targets of government repression. In recent years, Xinhua has expanded abroad and on the internet. Its website Xinhuanet, which provides news services in six languages (Chinese, English, Spanish, French, Russian, and Arabic), boasts 80 million page views per day.

* Agence France-Presse 11/6/2011: Party loyalty drives China's Xinhua news agency at 80 <
* China Scope 11/9/2011: Li Changchun speaks at the 80th anniversary of Xinhua <>
* China Scope 11/6/2011: Xinhua: International society sent greetings on Xinhua's 80th anniversary <>
* Xinhuanet Brief Introduction: <>
* Reporters Without Borders 9/30/2005: Xinhua, the world's biggest propaganda agency <,15172.html>


Press regulator sets new rules, penalties for 'false' reporting

On November 10, China's General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), which enforces state media regulations, announced that it would punish any Chinese news organizations that engaged in "inaccurate" reporting. Under the new rules, journalists must have at least two sources for "critical" reports, and they are banned from changing photographs or video clips in ways that distort their authenticity. They must also personally conduct interviews when collecting information, which cannot come from the internet without verification. The new measures appeared to be aimed at containing stories that originate on China's microblogging services, whose popularity and speed have made censorship of emerging news items difficult. Reporters' press cards will be revoked if they are found to have "fabricated" stories that had "serious consequences," and media outlets will be required to issue corrections and public apologies for "inaccurate" reports. Outlets could also face temporary suspension for such articles. Notably, terms like "inaccurate" and "critical" remain undefined, meaning the rules could be enforced arbitrarily or in a highly politicized manner, as has occurred with similar crackdowns on so-called "fake" reports implemented in the past.

* Xinhua 11/10/2011: Chinese reporters urged to be impartial, stay away from rumors: regulation <>
* Radio Free Asia 11/11/2011: Rules target citizen journalists <>
* New York Times 11/12/2011: China rolls out tighter rules on reporting <


Liberal magazine dismisses critical reporter

Shanghai-based investigative reporter Yang Haipeng was forced to resign from Caijing magazine on October 13, a week before his wife Mei Xiaoyang was sentenced to four years in prison on corruption charges. On his microblog account, Yang had spent a year recounting details of official misdeeds related to Mei's design company. He also revealed that the court had convicted his wife without hearing evidence from the alleged recipient of the bribe. Yang confirmed on November 14 that the resignation came after apparent pressure on the magazine from the Shanghai authorities, and he was reportedly urged to remain silent about the matter. Caijing is known as one of a few liberal magazines in China, and it frequently carries investigative reports that the authorities find politically sensitive. A series of newspapers and magazines that conduct investigative journalism have come under pressure in recent months, with some forced to purge or reassign key staff members (see CMB No. 36). Also on November 14, the International Federation of Journalists reported that a magazine affiliated with Jinghua newspaper, which had been transferred to the control of the official People's Daily in September, had been compelled to halt investigative reporting, and that several staff members had left the publication.

* IFEX 11/16/2011: Investigative journalist forced to resign
* Deutsche-Welle 11/14/2011 (in Chinese): Caijing dismisses reporter Yang Haipeng due to political pressure
* IFEX 11/14/2011: IFJ concerned over threatened magazine closure


Controversial Confucius Peace Prize awarded to Vladimir Putin

A group of Chinese academics announced on November 15 that Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin would be this year's winner of the "Confucius Peace Prize," an award created in 2010 by an association that was allegedly overseen by China's Culture Ministry, though the ministry has since repudiated the group (see CMB No. 35). According to one of the organizers, Qiao Damo, Putin was selected for "keeping world peace," in particular for having opposed the recent NATO bombing campaign in Libya (see CMB No. 38). Observers familiar with human rights abuses in Russia and Chechnya were appalled by the committee's statement that praised Putin's past actions, including his KGB career and his 1999 decision to launch a "large-scale military action towards the illegal armed forces" in Chechnya. Qiao criticized the organizers of the Nobel Peace Prize for having "gone too far away from peace," and insisted that the Confucius Prize serves as "an alternative" to balance Western values. The Russian embassy in Beijing gave no immediate response. The award ceremony was set to take place on December 9, a day before the Nobel Peace Prize event in Oslo. The inaugural ceremony was widely ridiculed in 2010, when that year's winner-former Taiwanese vice president Lien Chan-failed to show up. Instead, a schoolgirl appeared to collect the 100,000 yuan ($17,500) monetary component of the award.

* China Digital Times 11/15/2011: China Peace Prize awarded to Vladimir Putin <
* New York Times 11/16/2011: For Putin, a Peace Prize for a decision to go to war <
* Guardian 11/15/2011: Vladimir Putin scoops Chinese peace award <
* Agence France-Presse 11/16/2011: China peace prize awarded to Russia's Putin <



'Free Chen Guangcheng' campaigners mark activist's birthday

On November 12, a group of 44 people hired a bus in Beijing and drove to Shandong Province to visit blind, self-taught lawyer and activist Chen Guangcheng on his 40th birthday (see CMB No. 39). Chen has been under house arrest without a telephone or internet connection since his release from prison in September 2010, and his cause has been taken up by a growing movement of netizen supporters, many of whom use microblogs to organize attempted visits and report on their encounters with police and hired thugs blocking access to Chen. The bus group was intercepted on the highway in Lanshan District near Chen's hometown in Linyi County. Would-be visitor Peng Zhonglin said more than 30 police vehicles, along with armed antiriot police, had stopped them from going forward. The group was detained for 13 hours before being escorted to Tianjin, near Beijing. A group of Chen supporters later gathered instead near a railway station in the capital, with birthday cakes and banners reading "Rights Defenders from China celebrate Chen Guangcheng's birthday." Separately, on November 9, a gathering of 150 petitioners had celebrated Chen's birthday at a restaurant in Shanghai. Also on November 12, Nanjing-based activist He Peirong, who had initiated the "Free Chen Guangcheng" campaign with others, was released after two days in police custody. She claimed that the authorities had promised to resolve "issues surrounding Chen" by December.

* Agence France-Presse 11/13/2011: China police blocks birthday visit to blind lawyer
* Human Rights In China 11/9/2011: 150 Shanghainese celebrate Chen Guangcheng's birthday <>
* Ming Pao 11/13/2011 (in Chinese): Netizens arrested after birthday visit to Chen Guangcheng <>
* NTDTV 11/15/2011: Chinese authorities stop well-wishers on Chen Guangcheng's birthday <


Twitter user completes year's term in labor camp

On November 9, Henan-based activist Wang Yi, also known as Chen Jianping, was released from a reeducation-through-labor facility in Zhengzhou, where she had served a year for posting a sarcastic anti-Japanese message on the banned microblogging service Twitter (see CMB No. 1). She is currently under police surveillance while staying at a guesthouse in Henan. Wang was first held in a hostel in October 2010, where police allegedly beat and abused her. A month later, she was sent to the labor camp, where she refused to write a statement of repentance. According to Wang, more than 10 guards confiscated her writings, including articles and personal letters, and injured her arm before she left the labor camp.

* HRIC Bulletin 11/9/2011: Rights activist Wang Yi still under surveillance after release from RTL <>



Indian film censor orders 'blurring' of Tibet flag

A scene featuring the Tibetan flag has reportedly been altered in Indian director Imtiaz Ali's new Bollywood film Rockstar, sparking protests among Tibetans living in exile in India. The scene was shot at a Tibetan monastery just outside Dharamsala, home to the Tibetan government-in-exile, and included people waving flags that symbolize Tibetan resistance to Chinese rule. Indian censor board chief Pankaja Thakur confirmed that images of the flag were blurred by the director, enabling Rockstar to pass with a U/A (under adult supervision) rating. The move raised concerns that the flag and its political symbolism were being treated by the censor board as sexual or violent content might be. Dorjee Tseten, the India director for Students for a Free
Tibet, said "it is extremely disturbing that such a grotesque violation of free speech is occurring in the world's largest democracy." India is rated Partly Free in Freedom House's Freedom of the Press 2011 report.

* Agence France-Presse 11/9/2011: Bollywood film in Tibet flag trouble <
* Tibet Post 11/7/2011: Rockstar' censorship rocks Tibetan community <
* Times of India 11/9/2011: Tibetans shocked at Rockstar diktat <
* YouTube 11/7/2011: Original Sadda Haq video before they censored the Free Tibet <>



Falun Gong radio operators imprisoned in Vietnam

On November 10, a court in Vietnam sentenced Vu Duc Trung and Le Van Thanh to three years and two years in prison, respectively, for "transmitting information illegally onto the telecommunications network" after a trial whose outcome appeared predetermined (see CMB No. 35). They had set up shortwave radio facilities in April 2009 and broadcast into China Chinese-language news, including on human rights issues, that had been produced by the Sound of Hope radio network run by Falun Gong practitioners. The two were detained in June 2010, after the Chinese embassy reportedly sent a memo to the Vietnamese government requesting that the broadcasts be stopped. According to the Epoch Times, on the day of the sentencing, about 30 Falun Gong practitioners gathered near the courthouse to hand out fliers about the case, but the police beat and detained them. On November 8, 44 Falun Gong practitioners organized a silent protest in front of the Chinese embassy in Hanoi and were also arrested and detained for two days. The case highlights the lengths the Chinese authorities are willing to go to suppress critical voices coming from outside China's borders. Vietnam is rated Not Free in Freedom House's Freedom of the Press 2011 report.

* Epoch Times 11/10/2011: Vietnam broadcasters sentenced in show trial, witnesses say <
* Agence France-Presse 11/10/2011: Vietnam Falun Gong jailed over China broadcasts <>
* Reporters Without Borders 11/10/2011: Two citizen journalists jailed for illegally broadcasting to China <,...
* Freedom Alert 11/10/2011: Freedom House condemns prison sentences for Vietnamese broadcasters <//>
* Epoch Times 11/15/2011: Seeking to help the Chinese people, Vietnam broadcasters face trial <


As China's state media expand, U.S. bill calls for visa limits

State-owned China Central Television (CCTV) is building a broadcasting center in Washington, DC, that will be completed by 2012. Though CCTV has limited viewership in the United States, it plans to produce up to six hours of original programming daily for its English-language CCTV News and CCTV Documentary, two channels that are available 24 hours a day via U.S. cable services and digital broadcasts by the Virginia-based public broadcaster MHz Networks. A CCTV studio is also being built in Nairobi, Kenya, for audiences in Africa, and a third is reportedly planned for Europe. CCTV appears to be following a global expansion strategy pioneered by Qatar-based television station Al-Jazeera, which is regarded by Beijing as a credible non-Western voice. However, given that China's state-run media are required to follow the Communist Party's restrictive censorship rules, many have questioned their ability to compete effectively for non-Chinese viewers. On September 13, three U.S. congressmen proposed a bill that would limit the number of Chinese state-run media workers in the United States, instructing the U.S. Department of State to issue the same number of visas to them as China issues to journalists working for U.S. government-funded media outlets like Voice of America and Radio Free Asia. According to the congressmen, only two Americans working for such outlets were issued visas by China during the 2010 fiscal year.

* Financial Times 11/7/2011: China to expand English language TV service <
* Wall Street Journal 11/7/2011: U.S. proposal would crimp visas for state-run media <
* Epoch Times 11/11/2011: China Central Television broadcasts propaganda adapted to DC audience <
* Press Release 9/13/2011: Rep. Rohrabacher introduces bill to counter Communist Chinese state media advantage in the U.S. <>


Chinese state-run daily pays way into U.S. papers

In recent weeks, China's state-run English newspaper China Daily has been appearing as a free insert in copies of the Boston Globe, which is owned by the New York Times Company. Analysts said the Boston area was being targeted due to its large number of scholars, students, and professionals with links to or an interest in China. A Globe spokesperson said the paper was distributing the "local version" of China Daily as part of a four-week promotional campaign. The state-run daily, which is widely regarded as a propaganda vehicle, claims a total circulation of 150,000 copies in the United States, and is produced in eight U.S. cities. Subscriptions to China Daily cost Boston readers $99 a year for weekday editions, and $49 annually for the weekend edition. In another notable relationship with a U.S. paper, China Daily produces a regular "paid supplement" for the Washington Post and its website.

* Boston Globe 11/15/2011: Chinese newspaper makes a push in Boston <
* China Daily on Washington Post website <>



Report details Chinese military involvement in cyberwarfare

On November 11, the Virginia-based think tank Project 2049 Institute released a report that details the Chinese military's cyber intelligence unit. According to the report, titled "Chinese People's Liberation Army Signal Intelligence and Cyber Reconnaissance Infrastructure," the Third Department at the People's Liberation Army's General Staff Department provides the authorities with premier cryptologic services related to signals and cyber intelligence (SIGINT) collection. The Department's Seventh Bureau based in Beijing, also known as "61580 Unit," specializes in computer network exploitation (CNE), including network defense and attack. Co-author Mark A. Stokes said, "The combination of SIGINT and CNE, for example, fusing transcripts of phone conversations with intercepted email exchanges, would enable a powerful understanding of plans, capabilities, and activities of an organization or individual in near real time."

* Defense News 11/10/2011: China's PLA involved in cyber espionage: Report <>
* Project 2049: The Chinese People's Liberation Army Signals Intelligence and Cyber Reconnaissance Infrastructure <