China Media Bulletin: Issue No. 9 | Freedom House

China Media Bulletin: Issue No. 9

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

Issue No. 9: February 10, 2011

* Leaked censorship directives show breadth of restricted topics
* Chinese coverage of Egypt equates protests with chaos
* Prominent columnist's blogs, name censored
* Facebook to open office in Hong Kong
* UK foreign secretary hints at Chinese cyberespionage

Printable version


State TV’s new video of activist’s death draws skepticism
On February 1, China’s state broadcaster, China Central Television (CCTV), aired video footage it said captured the death of Zhejiang-based rural activist Qian Yunhui on December 25, 2010, in which he was run over by a truck. Qian was known for lobbying on behalf of his fellow villagers to obtain compensation for illegal land seizures by local officials. A graphic image of Qian’s crushed body under a truck’s tire had circulated widely on China’s major web portals at the end of December, sparking a public outcry. Zhejiang authorities claimed that the new CCTV video, which was supposedly recorded by a camera hidden in Qian’s wristwatch, proved that his death was an accident rather than a murder by local officials seeking to silence him. In a telephone interview with CCTV, the police said they decided to release the video only after they had verified its authenticity. Hundreds of online comments questioned the veracity of the video. On the same day, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported that Qian’s family had received 1.05 million yuan (US$159,000) in compensation. Fei Liangyu, the driver accused of killing Qian, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison.
* CCTV 2/1/2011 (in Chinese): Footage of Qian Yunhui’s accident released <>
* McClatchy 2/1/2011: China shows video in Qian Yunhui case. Questions remain. Chinese netizens furious <>
* New York Times 12/28/2010: Villager’s suspicious death ignites fury in China <>
Leaked censorship directives show breadth of restricted topics
On January 31, the Belgium-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) released Voice of Courage: Press Freedom in China 2010, an annual assessment of conditions for media workers in China. The report included a sampling of 88 restrictive orders issued by the authorities during 2010. Ironically, one leaked directive from July stated that “restrictive orders must not be disseminated online.” The directives, which affected both online and traditional media, covered a range of topics, including:
- Domestic political affairs: No coverage of proposals to amend election legislation during a meeting of the National People’s Congress; only positive coverage of new regulations requiring all mobile-telephone subscribers to register before purchasing a SIM card
- Public health and social issues: No publication of photographs of a chemical factory explosion in Nanjing; requirement to delete reports related to distribution of spoiled vaccines that killed or disabled 100 toddlers in Shanxi; online media not allowed to republish articles related to homosexuality; no sending reporters to cover a mudslide in Gansu
- Corruption: No reporting on bribery investigations of a Chinese telecommunications company by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, or on a stock-market manipulation case against businessman Huang Guangyu
- Civil society: No reporting on a protest in Beijing by local artists, or a Ministry of Education directive urging students not to apply for Oxfam programs
- Tibet: Produce only positive reports on government rescue efforts after the Yunshu earthquake, but no reporting on rescue efforts by Tibetan monks
- Foreign affairs: Restrictions on coverage or requirements to use Xinhua’s version when reporting on unrest in Kyrgyzstan, Hillary Clinton’s attendance at an internet freedom forum, the North Korean attack on a South Korean naval vessel, a new election system for the Communist Party secretary in Vietnam, and a hostage crisis in the Philippines
A more recent list of censorship directives issued by the Chinese authorities in January 2011 has also been leaked and distributed online. The primary focus of the restrictions was the outbreak of antigovernment protests in Egypt, and the directives warned that all websites “lax in monitoring will be forcibly shut down.” In addition, on January 12, the State Council Information Office ordered websites not to post any articles related to Tajikistan’s ceding of 1,000 square kilometers of territory to China.
* International Federation of Journalists 2/2/2011: New IFJ report identifies more than 80 censorship orders in China in 2010 <>
* China Digital Times 2/8/2011: Latest directives from the Ministry of Truth, January 2 to January 28 <>
Chinese coverage of Egypt equates protests with chaos
China’s news coverage of antigovernment protests in Egypt has focused on Beijing’s efforts to evacuate Chinese citizens, the travelers’ happy return on the eve of Lunar New Year, and the impression that the demonstrations have brought chaos to the Middle Eastern country. Jeremy Goldkorn of the website observed that while most Western coverage has noted Egyptian citizens’ anger at corruption and political paralysis, the Chinese narrative is “much more that there are people demonstrating against government, chaos on streets, the banks are shut down, the army is on street.” There is little discussion of the root causes of the protests, or of demonstrators’ call for democracy. On February 1, the state-run newspaper China Daily published an article on the Chinese embassy’s arrangement of food and water for its citizens at the Cairo airport. Zhang Jianyu, an employee of a Chinese electronics company, told the paper that the local telecommunications operator’s office had been attacked. He said it might have been struck “because people are angry that their mobile phones and short message service were blocked.” China’s pioneering use of such communications blocking during internal unrest was not mentioned in the article.
* Time 2/8/2011: Why Egypt’s democratic wave scarcely causes ripples in China <,8599,2046901,00.html>
* Economist 2/3/2011: Build a wall: the year of the rabbit starts badly <>
* China Daily 2/1/2011: Planes to bring Chinese travelers in Egypt back <>
Activists punished for distributing printed materials
The authorities have detained several activists for disseminating informal printed materials in recent weeks. On January 18, Zhou Suixiong, a resident of Liuzhou City in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, was reportedly sentenced to 18 months in prison for “inciting subversion.” According to local television, he was found distributing anti–Communist Party pamphlets in a public park. On February 1, Qin Yongmin, cofounder of the banned China Democracy Party, was detained for 10 days after he sent out personal statements on China’s political transformation. Qin has been arbitrarily deprived of political rights since his release from prison on November 29, 2010, after serving a 12-year sentence. It was reported on February 7 that police in Guizhou province were approaching activists in public parks and ordering them to stop distributing printed human rights–related news articles, apparently out of concern that citizens would learn of the popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. Each year, large volumes of informal religious and political texts circulate throughout China, often via the internet but also in print, periodically sparking government crackdowns on “illegal publications.”
* China Human Rights Defenders 1/18/2011: Guangxi man sentenced to 1.5 years in prison <>
* China Human Rights Defenders 2/1/2011: Wuhan democracy activist detained 10 days <>
* Boxun News 2/1/2011 (in Chinese): Prominent activist detained for 10 days on the eve of New Year <>
* China Human Rights Defenders 2/8/2011: Police in Guiyang harass activists to prevent spread of news about Egypt, Tunisia <>
Netizens balk at manslaughter sentence for official’s son
On January 30, Li Qiming, the son of local police official Li Gang, was sentenced by a court in Wangdu county, Hebei province, to six years in prison for drunk driving and manslaughter, having killed one pedestrian and injured another in an October 2010 hit-and-run accident. Li Qiming had gained widespread notoriety on the internet thanks to his reported exclamation as he fled the scene: “Go ahead, sue me. My father is Li Gang!” For many observers, the taunt symbolized the impunity enjoyed by the powerful in China. Netizens expressed outrage at Li Qiming’s sentence, arguing that the law requires a minimum of seven years in prison for leaving the scene after committing vehicular manslaughter. Media outlets were instructed to use only articles from the state news agency, Xinhua. However, postings and comments related to the verdict are still available on the microblogging platforms of China’s popular web portals, including Sina and Baidu.
* Radio Free Asia 1/31/2011: Sentence disappoints netizens <>
* Associated Press 1/30/2011: Son of senior Chinese policeman jailed over fatal hit and run <>
* Sohu Community Discussion Forum 1/31/2011 (in Chinese): ‘My father is Li Gang’ is a useful sentence: Li Qiming sentenced to six years <>
Prominent columnist’s blogs, name censored
On February 7, Chinese authorities began censoring the blogs of prominent columnist Chang Ping, as well as any mentions of him elsewhere online. Chang was fired in January by the Guangzhou-based Southern Daily Group for his liberal commentaries, including discussions of democracy and government policy failures. His blog on Tianyi, a Chinese online writing community, was shut down, and all the posts on his account at Sina, the popular web portal, were deleted. According to Radio Free Asia, online references to Chang and searches for his name were blocked on Sina. Chang said followers of his Sina account had increased by more than 10,000 since he lost his job.
* Radio Free Asia 2/7/2011: Chinese journalist silenced <>
Microblog used to combat child abductions
On January 25, professor Yu Jianrong at the China Academy of Social Sciences created a microblog aimed at ending child abduction and the exploitation of child beggars in China. He urged Chinese netizens to take pictures of child beggars and post them on the site as a means of raising social awareness of the issue. The website attracted 148,400 visitors within three weeks of its launch. A few parents who recognized their kidnapped sons in the vast sea of photographs have reportedly teamed up for a joint search.
* Financial Times 2/9/2011: Blog campaign to trace children grips in China <>
* Shanghaiist 1/31/2011: Mother finds photo of kidnapped son online, joins others in search for lost children on Sina weibo <>
* Yu Jianrong’s microblog (in Chinese): <>
Facebook to open office in Hong Kong
On February 9, the popular social-networking website Facebook announced that it would open a sales office in Hong Kong to help local and Taiwanese advertisers launch marketing campaigns on the site. Blake Chandlee, Facebook’s commercial director, said Hong Kong and Taiwan have robust digital infrastructure that offers immediate revenue opportunities in the region. According to online statistics, about 3.7 million Hong Kong residents, or 76 percent of the enclave’s internet users, have Facebook accounts.
* Reuters 2/8/2011: Facebook to open sales office in Hong Kong <>
* Asia Media Journal 2/10/2011: The battle for online display <>
* Socialbakers: Hong Kong Facebook statistics <>
Groupon’s Super Bowl ad on Tibet raises hackles
On February 6, the U.S.-based coupon website Groupon aired a television commercial during the avidly watched Super Bowl football championship that appeared to make light of repression in Tibet, potentially offending both Chinese authorities and Tibetan activists. In the ad, actor Timothy Hutton says that the Tibetan people’s culture is in jeopardy, but that they still make amazing dishes, which are available at a Groupon partner restaurant in Chicago. On February 7, the state-run newspaper China Daily reported that Groupon is planning to collaborate with the Chinese internet giant Tencent to launch a Chinese-language website, which would hire 1,000 employees within three months. But according to the Wall Street Journal, many Chinese netizens were offended by the company’s mixing of business and politics. In response to the controversy, Groupon chief executive Andrew Mason wrote on his blog that the commercial was meant to generate donations to the Tibet Fund, a New York–based organization that works with Tibet’s government-in-exile.
* Huffington Post 2/8/2011: Groupon CEO Andrew Mason defends controversial Tibet Super Bowl ad <>
* Wall Street Journal 2/7/2011: Tibet ad not likely to help Groupon in China <>
* Freedom in the World 2010: Tibet <//>
Tibetan writer arrested a second time
Tibetan writer Gyitsang Takmig was reportedly arrested on December 16, 2010, by police in Tsoe City, Gansu province. He had previously been arrested on July 27, 2010, and served a three-month sentence for circulating a video in which he recounted Tibetan history and hardships and called on the international community to help end repression in the region. At the time of his release in October, the authorities told Takmig to keep his old mobile-telephone number. According to the India-based Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, the video, published on a compact disc, was meant in part to educate the Tibetan public, including those who could not read, and has been widely circulated in Tibetan areas within Gansu, Qinghai, and Sichuan provinces.
* Phayul 2/4/2011: China re-arrests Tibetan writer Gyitsang Takmig <>
UK foreign secretary hints at Chinese cyberespionage
Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported on February 4 that the country’s Foreign Office had apparently been attacked in January by Chinese government hackers. At the Munich Security Conference on February 4, British foreign secretary William Hague said that the Foreign Office had received deceptive e-mail messages from “a hostile state intelligence agency,” with attached files containing malicious computer code. Although Hague did not name the suspected country, the Guardian cited intelligence sources who “made it clear” that he was referring to China. Hague said the British government’s security systems had caught the messages before they reached Foreign Office staff members, but that such attacks were becoming more common and problematic.
* Guardian 2/4/2011: Chinese cyber-spies penetrate Foreign Office computers <>
Taiwan amends regulations on government advertising
On January 13, amid increasing public concern over embedded marketing in local news media, Taiwan’s legislature amended the Budget Law to prohibit the use of public funds for paid news. The government also issued an executive order requiring official policy explanations appearing in news outlets to be labeled as advertisements. These measures are responses to a civil society movement against embedded marketing. In December 2010, two media-monitoring groups formed the Alliance to Oppose Government News Buying. According to Inter-Press Service, 130 journalism and broadcasting professors had signed a related petition, and 200 reform groups issued a statement of support.
* Inter-Press Service 1/31/2011: Taiwanese media fights propaganda masked as news <>
* Foundation for Excellent Journalism Award Discussion Forum 1/28/2011 (in Chinese): Alliance to Oppose Government News Buying: December 2010 monthly report <>