China Media Bulletin: Issue No. 6 | Freedom House

China Media Bulletin: Issue No. 6

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

Issue No. 6: January 20, 2011

* Communist Party reinforces propaganda discipline for 2011
* Stand-alone cybercafes to be eliminated in China by 2016
* China microblog set to reach 1 million Hong Kong users
* Sixty prominent Tibetans arrested since 2008, report finds
* China's branding campaign unveiled in New York City

Printable version


Communist Party’s 2011 media policy reinforces propaganda discipline
Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials gathered in Beijing on January 4 for the National Meeting of Propaganda Ministers. Among the more prominent participants was Chen Kuiyuan, dean of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who is known as a hardliner and a critic of attempts at “bourgeois liberalization” that he associated with the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. His presence at the event amounted to a “flesh-and-blood cautionary note about the need for media to fall into line in 2011,” said David Bandurski of Hong Kong University. On January 13, a series of apparent CCP directives on news reporting for 2011 were leaked online. The directives specifically seek to limit press coverage of protests, house demolitions, natural disasters, and criminal trials. They also ban cross-regional reporting, a previously common practice that allowed media outlets to expose corruption or other negative news outside their home areas. The directives similarly prohibit commercial websites from organizing nationwide online voting activities. As a reaction to citizens’ growing use of the internet to mobilize on social and political issues, the CCP’s Propaganda Department also instructs media outlets not to use the term “civil society” (gongmin shehui) or question official political reforms.
* Radio France Internationale 1/13/2011: Propaganda Department issues orders for 2011 <>
* China Media Project 1/17/2011: Press policy 2011: one photo says all <>
* Shanghaiist 1/12/2011: ‘Civil society’ banned in China <>
Self-censored weekly reconsiders personnel change
Since early January, Peng Xiaoyun, an editor at Guangzhou-based Time Weekly, has been on involuntary leave after she published a special report titled “100 Most Influential People of Our Time” on December 13. The list apparently angered officials, as it included milk-safety campaigner Zhao Lianhai and Cui Weiping, a signer of the prodemocracy manifesto Charter 08. According to the South China Morning Post, Peng was asked to resign by early February, but intense public pressure led her employers to reconsider. Peng wrote on her microblog that she would accept any outcome, since she understood China’s media environment. Prominent columnist Chang Ping, who was demoted for similar reasons at the Guangzhou-based Southern Weekly, said Time Weekly’s lack of transparency had made Peng a victim in this case of self-censorship.
* South China Morning Post 1/12/2011: Decision to sack editor on hold after outcry <>
* Deutsche Welle–Chinese 1/10/2011 (In Chinese): Time Weekly controversial report causes personnel changes <,,14760437,00.html>
Anniversary of Tiananmen Square self-immolation highlights impact of propaganda
January 23 will mark the 10-year anniversary of an incident in which five people set themselves on fire on Tiananmen Square as cameras rolled. Chinese state-run media quickly claimed that the individuals were Falun Gong adherents. However, investigations by the Washington Post and others have brought to light a series of inconsistencies and blatant inaccuracies in the official story, indicating that the protesters were not Falun Gong practitioners and that the incident was very possibly staged by the Communist Party to turn public opinion against the spiritual movement. At the time, many in China were sympathetic to the plight of practitioners, but after state television aired scene after scene of the alleged self-immolation, many accepted the party’s claims that the group was dangerous, giving the authorities a free hand to increase its repression and torture of adherents. Since then, similar tactics of repeatedly airing graphic scenes of violent acts allegedly or actually committed by members of minority groups have been used against Tibetans and Uighurs, fomenting public hatred and increasing discrimination.
* Falun Dafa Information Center 1/19/2011: On ten year anniversary, Tiananmen Square self-immolation continues to be deadly frame-up <>
* Freedom House 7/8/2009: Chinese media manipulation feeds tensions in Xinjiang <//>
Stand-alone cybercafes to be eliminated in China by 2016
On January 11, a conference on standardized administration of China’s cybercafes was held in Anhui province by the Ministry of Culture, which oversees licensing for the businesses. Vice Minister Ou Yangjian said all sole-proprietor cybercafes would be replaced by chains within the next five years, a change that will likely make it easier for the authorities to enforce censorship and monitoring requirements. In recent years, the government has sought to exercise tighter control over cybercafes, in part by freezing the issuance of business licenses and increasing surveillance, because unrestricted cafes enable anonymous communication and networking among Chinese netizens.
* Xinhua 1/12/2011 (In Chinese): China to eliminate stand-alone cybercafes within next five years <>
* Freedom on the Net 3/30/2009: China <//>
Investment firm sheds Cisco shares over role in Chinese internet controls
On January 11, the U.S. investment management firm Boston Common announced that it had sold most of its $3.6 million stake in Cisco Systems Inc., accusing the information technology company of lacking transparency and dodging concerns over its complicity in human rights violations in China. Boston Common said that in 1998, Cisco had helped the Chinese government build a nationwide internet-protocol backbone, also known as the “Great Firewall of China.” It also noted that a leaked 2002 Cisco document indicated that the company’s employees saw Beijing’s “repressive censorship and surveillance agenda” as a business opportunity. Cisco denied Boston Common’s claim and said in a statement to Reuters that its activities “support the benefits of internet access to information on a global basis.”
* Agence France-Presse 1/13/2011: Citing rights failings, firm divests Cisco holdings <>
* Reuters 1/12/2011: Activist manager sells Cisco shares on rights concerns <>
Sentenced toll evader granted retrial after web outcry
Shi Jianfeng, a truck driver in Henan province who was sentenced to life imprisonment in early January for allegedly using a fake military license plate to evade half a million dollars in road tolls, was granted a retrial after his harsh sentence sparked an outcry online. On January 16, the provincial higher court announced that court president Guo Baozhen, deputy president Ren Jianjun, and two other officials responsible for the original ruling would be investigated. The case shows the growing power of Chinese netizens to oppose, and sometimes reverse, injustices. However, such successes are typically limited to the local level, as censors restrict circulation of complaints with national relevance.
* Xinhua 1/16/2011: Court officials probed for toll evading case <>
* Agence France-Presse 1/14/2011: Web outcry wins retrial for jailed toll dodger <>
Baidu blocks anticorruption site
Cheng Kangming, founder of China Justice and Anti-Corruption Net, a Chinese website that exposes cases of official corruption, said the site had been filtered out by the Chinese search engine Baidu since January 7, after his team published a story in late December about a group of poorly compensated evictees in Jinxiang county, Shandong province. Cheng said he had received telephone calls from the Beijing municipal press office and was visited by six men from the Jinxiang county propaganda office. After he refused their request to remove the story, Baidu started blocking links to it on January 4.
* Radio Free Asia 1/11/2011: Graft-busting site blocked <>
Culture Ministry to remove websites with ‘illegal music’
On January 10, China’s Ministry of Culture announced that by February 28, all search engines, web portals, and entertainment and personal websites must remove audio files that have not undergone content examination. It is unclear whether the action is focused on combating piracy or censoring content, though none of the ministry’s listed “illegal” English and Mandarin pop songs contain particularly vulgar lyrics. The Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily reported that the ministry had recently shut down 237 websites. However, popular web portals such as Baidu, Tencent, and Google are still available for Chinese web users looking to search for and download music.
* Wall Street Journal 1/12/2011: Culture Ministry goes after online music, again <>
* People’s Daily 1/10/2011 (In Chinese): Ministry of Culture to remove 100 illegal songs from the web <>
China microblog set to reach 1 million Hong Kong users
China’s Weibo, a popular Twitter-like site owned by Sina Corporation, said the number of its users in Hong Kong is expected to reach one million by the end of 2011. While other popular social-networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook are banned in mainland China, many Chinese celebrities, including comedic action star Jackie Chan, use Weibo to interact with their fans from China. Because Sina’s server is located in China, sensitive Weibo entries written by users in Hong Kong are subject to China’s censorship regulations despite the territory’s freer media landscape.
* Reuters 1/13/2011: China’s Twitter sets sights on Hong Kong <>
Sixty prominent Tibetans arrested since 2008, report finds
On January 12, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, a Dharamsala-based nongovernmental organization, released its 2010 annual report on Tibet. The report finds that since 2008 the Chinese government has arrested over 60 Tibetan writers, bloggers, intellectuals, and cultural figures who were seen by fellow Tibetans as “exemplary individuals.” Many of those arrested have reportedly endured difficult conditions in custody and received lengthy prison sentences, including environmentalist and cultural figure Karma Samdrup, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison in June 2010. The authorities consider these individuals’ expressions of Tibetan identity to be a threat to state security.
* Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy 1/12/2011: Annual Report 2010: Human Rights Situation in Tibet <>
* New York Times 6/24/2010: Tibetan environmentalist receives 15-year sentence: <>
Exiled Tibetan writer reveals personal story
On January 4, Gedun Tsering, a Tibetan writer living in exile, spoke with Reporters Without Borders about his observations on freedom of expression in Tibet. Before he sought asylum in Dharamsala, India, Tsering spent years hiding in Tibet’s mountainous Ngaba region after the Chinese government accused him of “inciting political activities” through his writing. He said the official crackdown on Tibetan-language media has left Tibetans—particularly students, scholars, and monks—with no access to quality information or outlets for their views.
* Reporters Without Borders 1/4/2011: Tibetan writer talks about violation of expression <,39208.html>
China’s branding campaign unveiled in New York City
On January 17, China’s State Council Information Office (SCIO) unveiled a television commercial titled “Experience China” on six giant screens in New York City’s Times Square. The event was timed to coincide with Chinese president Hu Jintao’s visit to the United States. According to China’s state-run news agency Xinhua, the U.S. television news network CNN plans to run the commercial until February 13. The advertisement features public figures including basketball star Yao Ming, Baidu search-engine founder Robin Li, and executives of state-owned companies. It aims to promote the country’s global image as part of the Chinese government’s latest five-year plan. Zhu Yinghuang, editor in chief emeritus at China Daily, said the commercial would help to correct China’s negative image in the Western media. However, Miles Young, chief executive of the global advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, suggested that Beijing should showcase grassroots cultural activity rather than state-led projects like its space program if it wants to combat stereotypes about modern China.
* Xinhua 1/18/2011: “Experience China” debuts at NYC’s Times Square <>
* Financial Times 1/19/2011: China tackles image problem in the west <>
* Wall Street Journal 1/14/2011: China to air pro-China ad in U.S. during Hu visit <>
Taiwan and China to build first undersea cable since 1949
On January 13, China’s state-run telecommunications company China Unicom signed a contract with four Taiwanese companies, including Chunghua Telecom, to build a direct undersea cable across the Taiwan Strait. Once approved by the Taiwanese government, the cable will be the first of its kind linking Taiwan and China since 1949, when the two split at the end of a civil war. Chunghua Telecom said demand for cross-strait internet transmission is surging as Chinese telecommunications operators increase their development of third-generation (3G) mobile communications and “cloud computing,” whereby shared resources are hosted online.
* Agence France-Presse 1/14/2011: Taiwan, China to build undersea cable <>