During the run-up to the 16th Communist Party Congress, which was held in November and marked the first orderly transfer of power in the party’s history, China’s leaders used the national media to launch a propaganda blitz reminiscent of Chairman Mao’s days. Throughout 2002, officials issued strict new guidelines to prevent any independent report- ing that reflected negatively on the party. Authorities also cracked down on the Internet, utilizing innovative new technologies to curb online speech. As in the past, journalists who overstepped boundaries faced censorship, harassment, demotion, or even arrest.
Still, China’s media persevered. With local publications relying more on the market for revenue, Chinese journalists are becoming increasingly professional and aggressive in their reporting. One unfortunate consequence is that more journalists have been attacked in reprisal for their work, especially in the provinces, where corrupt local officials often act like warlords. In early January, three reporters for local papers in eastern Shandong Province were interrogated and beaten by security officials inside the local Propaganda Bureau offices after reporting on villagers’ anti-corruption protests. While Chinese journalists increasingly report on violent attacks against their colleagues, there is no legal recourse to protect their rights or protest such treatment.
In January, the Dalian Intermediate Court formally sentenced journalist Jiang Weiping, a CPJ 2001 International Press Freedom award recipient, to eight years in prison. Jiang was arrested in December 2000 after writing a series of articles for the Hong Kong monthly Qianshao (Frontline) revealing corruption scandals in northeast China. Although U.S. government and U.N. officials have demanded Jiang’s release, there has been no progress in his case. Jiang is one of 39 journalists now imprisoned in China, making it the world’s leading jailer of journalists for the fourth year in a row.
Official corruption is just one of many topics that the propaganda bureaucracy bans journalists from independently investigating. As the Communist Party contends with escalating social problems–including unemployment, widening income gaps between rural and urban areas, an impending AIDS crisis, and rampant corruption–authorities have tried to maintain an image of stability by controlling information. When laid-off workers in the industrial northeast staged massive protests this spring, for example, officials stifled news of the unrest, restricting foreign and domestic journalists’ access to the region.
But AIDS activist and Web site publisher Wan Yanhai, together with several domestic and foreign journalists, defied tight reporting restrictions to expose a health crisis in central Henan Province, where thousands of peasants acquired HIV after selling their blood in official blood-collection stations. In August, authorities held Wan for almost a month on suspicion of “leaking state secrets” after he posted a government report online documenting the spread of AIDS in Henan. An international outcry over Wan’s arrest helped mobilize awareness of China’s AIDS crisis, and at the end of the year, the government announced plans to mount a long-overdue public service campaign to educate the population about the risks of HIV and AIDS.
Corporations and other targets of journalists’ investigative exposés found new ways in 2002 to punish journalists through China’s legal system. Several high-profile libel suits were filed against publications for their aggressive reporting on corporate scandals and other topics. In June, the influential financial weekly Caijing (Finance and Economics) lost a libel suit brought by a Shenzhen real estate corporation for a report exposing the company’s fraudulent accounting practices. The court ordered the magazine to pay 300,000 yuan (US$36,200) in damages. Caijing‘s editor, Hu Shili, stood by the story, saying, “We felt we had a responsibility to tell the truth to the public.”
Government efforts to control information have faced a formidable challenge with the rapid spread of the Internet, which now has almost 58 million users in China. Authorities have devoted massive resources to blocking Web sites, filtering e-mail, and monitoring Internet users’ online activities to block “subversive” content. Following a deadly fire in June at an unlicensed Internet café in the capital, Beijing, authorities launched a nationwide crackdown on the businesses, permanently closing more than 3,000 cafés and requiring others to install filtering software on their computers before reopening. While the government often justifies Internet censorship as an anti-pornography effort, a study released in December by Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society demonstrated that Chinese authorities block many more news and political sites than those with sexually explicit content.
In 2002, the government announced new regulations mandating that Internet service providers censor their own sites or risk being closed. Hundreds of domestic companies, universities, government agencies, and other organizations acquiesced, signing a voluntary and vaguely worded pledge to block any information that “may jeopardize state security and disrupt social stability.” The U.S.-based Yahoo! corporation also signed the pledge, prompting widespread international protest from free speech advocates.
Large segments of the urban, educated population who now rely on the Internet for daily work or personal use have become increasingly outspoken against government censorship of the Web. The Declaration of Internet Citizens’ Rights, which had gathered more than 1,000 signatures from academics, Web site publishers, and everyday Internet users by the end of 2002, challenged the constitutionality of Internet restrictions. A government decision to block access to the Google search engine in August sparked online protests. After two weeks, officials restored access to the site.
While trying to maintain control over an increasingly independent-minded domestic press, the government also continues to control the activities of foreign journalists by issuing strict regulations governing reporting and by harassing those who don’t comply. Local sources who speak to foreign journalists often risk harassment or imprisonment. In December, authorities sentenced Li Lan, a Hunan Province rice farmer, to one year in jail on charges of “malicious slander” after she spoke with a New York Times reporter for a story about rural lawlessness.
As the 16th Communist Party Congress began in Beijing on November 7, almost 800 foreign journalists swarmed the city, eager to cover what the government called the most open meeting in the party’s history. But they were disappointed to find most proceedings closed to journalists, except for a few carefully scripted meetings. To learn what was happening, reporters were reduced to chasing delegates while they took rest room breaks.
Although Chinese newspapers featured bright red headlines lauding the congress, the news was almost devoid of any real information about the transfer of power appointing Vice President Hu Jintao to succeed President Jiang Zemin as the party’s general secretary. In the spring, propaganda officials had issued a document asking journalists to create a “correct ideological atmosphere” during the congress and listing 32 restricted topics, including Taiwan’s political status, religious minorities, and independent media. Nervous editors told several of China’s most aggressive journalists not to report to work during the meetings. “My boss told me to take a month off,” one journalist told the South China Morning Post. The authorities “do not want any bad news,” said the journalist.
For China’s journalists, the power transition doesn’t offer much reason for optimism. Shortly after the congress ended, the editor of Shenzhen Weekly newsmagazine was fired for publishing a satirical piece about a mock press conference in which a journalist is reprimanded for referring to Hu Jintao as a “puppet” of President Jiang Zemin.
Five years after Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty, the debate over the future of free expression in the territory rages on. While several prominent journalists publicly condemned their colleagues for practicing self-censorship, the government moved forward with plans to draft anti-subversion legislation, which many observers view as a direct threat to Hong Kong’s free and lively media. Nevertheless, local papers continue to publish stories that would be banned from the mainland press, including reports about Chinese politics, Taiwan’s political status, and pro-democracy activism in China.
Just before the July 1 anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China, government officials announced plans to proceed with anti-subversion legislation as required under Article 23 of the Basic Law, the territory’s constitution. Article 23 mandates that Hong Kong enact, “on its own,” statutes outlawing sedition, subversion, secession, and the theft of state secrets. In September, the Security Bureau issued a Consultation Document on the legislation and called for comment during a three-month public consultation period.
A diverse range of groups–including CPJ, the Hong Kong Bar Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, banking officials, librarians, and numerous individual journalists, lawyers, legislators, and religious figures–protested the proposed laws, expressing concern that they would chill free speech and the free flow of information in Hong Kong. Press freedom advocates said that the enactment of such laws would discourage journalists from covering topics that Beijing considers politically sensitive, including the banned spiritual group Falun Gong and independence movements in the Tibet and Xinjiang autonomous regions.
In December, CPJ submitted a response to the government stating that the proposed legislation should not be enacted because it exceeds the requirements of Article 23 and poses a grave threat to press freedom. Chinese vice premier Qian Qichen, who has pushed Hong Kong to enact the measures, did little to quell concerns when he publicly stated that anyone who opposes the legislation must “have the devil in their hearts.” The government plans to finalize draft legislation by February 2003.
The April dismissal of Jasper Becker, the South China Morning Post‘s veteran Beijing bureau chief, was one in a series of incidents that brought the issue of self-censorship into the public spotlight. Post editors said that Becker was fired for “insubordination,” while Becker, who has written prolifically about Chinese politics and social problems, claimed that his dismissal was part of a larger management effort to “make the coverage more pro-China.” The incident reignited an ongoing public debate in Hong Kong about the extent of political influence on editorial decisions. During a fact-finding mission to Hong Kong in September, CPJ found that while there has been little direct government interference in the media since 1997, political and corporate interests often subtly influence editorial decisions, helping foster a climate of excessive caution.
In interviews with CPJ, several Hong Kong journalists acknowledged a trend among their colleagues of less aggressive reporting on China. While some blamed it on a lack of interest from the Hong Kong public, others pointed to more complicated reasons. “At our paper, when we need to cut space, we cut China coverage first,” one editor at a major Chinese-language daily told CPJ. “Other papers think that if they cover China less, they’ll get in less trouble…. The media’s not trying to dig out stories anymore.”
Xu Zerong, free-lance
Sometime in January, the Shenzhen Intermediate Court sentenced Xu to 10 years in prison on charges of “leaking state secrets” and to an additional three years on charges of committing “economic crimes.”
On June 24, 2000, Xu, an associate research professor at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies at Zhongshan University in Guangzhou, was arrested and held incommunicado for more than a year before his trial in August 2001. He has written several free-lance articles about China’s foreign policy and co-founded a Hong Kong-based academic journal, Zhongguo Shehui Kexue Jikan (China Social Sciences Quarterly). Xu is a permanent resident of Hong Kong.
Chinese officials have said that the “state secrets” charges against Xu stem from his use of historical materials for his academic research. In 1992, Xu photocopied four books published in the 1950s about China’s role in the Korean War, which he then sent to a colleague in South Korea, according to a letter from the Chinese government to St. Antony’s College, Oxford University. (Xu earned his Ph.D. at St. Antony’s College, and since his arrest, college personnel have actively researched and protested his case.) The Security Committee of the People’s Liberation Army in Guangzhou later determined that these documents should be labeled “top secret.”
The “economic crimes” charges are related to the “illegal publication” of more than 60,000 copies of 25 books and periodicals since 1993, including several books about Chinese politics and Beijing’s relations with Taiwan, according to official government documents.
Some observers believe that the charges against Xu are more likely related to an article he wrote for the Hong Kong-based Yazhou Zhoukan (Asia Weekly) newsmagazine revealing clandestine Chinese Communist Party support for Malaysian communist insurgency groups. Xu was arrested only days before the article appeared in the June 26, 2000, issue. In the article, Xu accused the Chinese Communist Party of hypocrisy for condemning the United States and other countries for interfering in China’s internal affairs by criticizing its human rights record. “China’s support of world revolution is based on the concept of ‘class above sovereignty’ … which is equivalent to the idea of ‘human rights above sovereignty,’ which the U.S. promotes today,” Xu wrote.
Xu’s family has filed an appeal, which was pending at press time. They have not been allowed to visit him since his arrest in 2000.
Zhao Jingqiao, Jinan Shibao
Lu Yanchuan, Jinan Shibao
Yang Fucheng, Shandong Qingnian
Zhao and Lu, both reporters for the daily Jinan Shibao (Jinan Times), and Yang, a reporter for Shandong Qingnian (Shandong Youth magazine) were beaten by security officials inside the local Propaganda Bureau offices in Ningyang County, Shandong Province, after they reported on anti-corruption protests by villagers, according to Chinese press reports.
The three journalists, who are based in Jinan, the provincial capital, had traveled to Ximeng Village in Ningyang County to investigate complaints that the local Communist Party secretary had beaten villagers who protested against his corrupt behavior. As the journalists were leaving the village at about 4:00 p.m., the Ningyang County deputy propaganda chief, Ji Weijian, called and asked them to come by his office, according to a report in Jinan Shibao.
On their way to Ji’s office, Yang received a phone call from his editor, who told him to return to Jinan immediately because the Ningyang Public Security Bureau had been ordered to track down the journalists. As the journalists turned the car around to return home, seven or eight police cars pulled them over. After Yang, Zhao, and Lu called Ji Weijian for assistance, he arrived on the scene and asked the reporters to accompany him back to his office.
At the Propaganda Bureau offices, Ji and another local official questioned the journalists and confiscated their notebooks and tape recorders. At about 8:00 p.m., plainclothes security officers entered the offices and demanded that the journalists leave with them. When Zhao, Lu, and Yang refused, the officers began to beat and kick them.
After about 20 minutes, the officers forced the reporters into a police car and drove them to the local precinct. There, they were separated and interrogated for several hours. They were released at midnight only after Zhao and Lu’s colleagues from Jinan Shibao arrived on the scene. Upon their release, the reporters were taken to the hospital, where they were treated for various injuries. Zhao was diagnosed with a severe concussion.
After the incident was reported in the domestic media, Ji Weijian denied that it had happened. On January 8, when a reporter from the state news agency, Xinhua, questioned him about the beatings, he replied, “We [propaganda officials] and reporters are one family. How could we beat them? In fact, when they stopped by the bureau offices, we gave them tea and took them out to dinner.”
Wang Daqi, Shengtai Yanjiu
Jiang Weiping, free-lance
The Dalian Intermediate Court formally sentenced free-lance journalist Jiang to eight years in prison on charges including “inciting to subvert state power” and “illegally providing state secrets overseas.” This judgment amended an earlier decision to sentence Jiang to nine years.
On December 4, 2000, Jiang was arrested after publishing a number of articles in the Hong Kong magazine Qianshao (Frontline), a monthly Chinese-language magazine focusing on mainland affairs, revealing corruption scandals in northeastern China.
Jiang wrote the Qianshao articles, which were published between June and September 1999, under various pen names. His coverage exposed several major corruption scandals involving high-level officials. Notably, Jiang reported that Shenyang vice mayor Ma Xiangdong had lost nearly 30 million yuan (US$3.6 million) in public funds gambling in Macau casinos. Jiang also revealed that Liaoning provincial governor Bo Xilai had covered up corruption among his friends and family during his years as Dalian mayor.
Soon after these cases were publicized in Qianshao and other Hong Kong media, authorities detained Ma. He was accused of taking bribes, embezzling public funds, and gambling overseas and was executed for these crimes in December 2001. Ma’s case was widely reported in China and used as an example in the government’s ongoing fight against corruption. However, in May 2001, Jiang was indicted for “revealing state secrets.”
The Dalian Intermediate Court held a secret trial in September 2001. In January 2002, when the court announced Jiang’s sentence, he proclaimed his innocence and told the court that the verdict “trampled on the law,” according to CPJ sources. He has since appealed the verdict, but the case remained pending at year’s end.
According to CPJ sources, Jiang has a serious stomach disorder and has been denied medical treatment. Jiang’s wife and daughter have not been allowed to see or speak with him in the two years since his arrest. His wife, Li Yanling, has been repeatedly interrogated and threatened since her husband’s arrest. In March 2002, the local Public Security Bureau brought her in for questioning and detained her for several weeks.
An experienced journalist, Jiang had worked until May 2000 as the northeastern China bureau chief for the Hong Kong paper Wen Hui Bao. He contributed free-lance articles to Qianshao. In the 1980s, he worked as a Dalian-based correspondent for Xinhua News Agency.
In November 2001, CPJ honored Jiang with its annual International Press Freedom Award. In February 2002, CPJ sent appeals to President Jiang Zemin from almost 600 supporters–including CBS anchor Dan Rather, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, and former U.S. ambassador to China Winston Lord–demanding Jiang’s unconditional release. That month, President Bush highlighted Jiang’s case in meetings with Jiang Zemin during a state visit to China. No progress had been made in his case by the end of 2002.
All foreign journalists
The Foreign Affairs Office of the Chaoyang District municipal government in the capital, Beijing, issued a directive to local Communist Party committees, government offices, and businesses outlining the proper procedures for giving interviews to foreign journalists, including topics that are off-limits and procedures for reporting “illegal” interviews.
The document, titled “On Strengthening the Management of Interviews by Foreign Reporters,” stated that interviewees must “actively uphold the dignity of the state, observe regulations regarding foreign affairs … and strictly guard secrets of the party and state.” After being interviewed, individuals must submit a report to the district Foreign Affairs Office.
The document also requires employees to prevent foreign reporters from conducting interviews about sensitive issues, including, “Falun Gong, democracy activists, private residences, the courts, religion, human rights or family planning policies.” If foreign reporters conduct “illegal” interviews, employees must report them immediately to Public Security or Foreign Affairs offices. Authorities may then confiscate journalists’ notes, audio equipment and cameras, according to the document.
Most foreign reporters in Beijing are based in diplomatic compounds in Chaoyang District. The government has issued a number of regulations governing the activities of foreign reporters, which are enforced to varying degrees. This directive was issued to tighten control over domestic and foreign reporters during the run-up to the 16th Communist Party Congress, which was held in November. Authorities often harass or detain domestic sources who speak with foreign reporters about sensitive topics.
Chu Wai-kit, TVB
Wong Chun-mei, TVB
Cheung Chi-fai, South China Morning Post
Chu, a cameraman for TVB; Wong, a reporter for TVB; and Cheung, a reporter for the South China Morning Post, were assaulted by Macau police while covering a demonstration against Chinese National People’s Congress chairman Li Peng’s visit to the territory.
As Chu filmed police deporting Hong Kong-based democracy activist Leung Kwok-hung from the Macau ferry terminal, police warned the journalist to stop, according to the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA). When Chu ignored the warning, several officers grabbed him and briefly detained him in a separate room. Chu claims police beat him and broke his camera.
Police grabbed TVB reporter Wong and dragged her away when she tried to intervene and help Chu, according to local and international press reports. Police also took Cheung and forced him into an office, where he was questioned for 45 minutes.
On February 17, Macau police issued a statement acknowledging that they had detained Chu and Cheung but denying that they had assaulted the journalists or damaged any equipment. The Macau government rejected a request from TVB and HKJA for an independent investigation into the incident, declaring instead that that they would carry out an internal inquiry. Macau, a former Portuguese colony 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of Hong Kong, reverted to Chinese rule in December 1999.
Yang Wei, Beijing Times
Yang, a photographer for the Beijing Times (Jinghua Shibao), was beaten while working undercover to investigate reports of mismanagement and unfair pricing at Beijing property management company Zhongchuang. The investigation focused on Zhongchuang’s management of the Shiliu Yuan Estates in Beijing’s Fengtai District.
On March 24, after discovering that Yang was a journalist, several Zhongchuang staff members beat him up, according to local news reports. Yang was taken to the Chaoyang Hospital, where he was treated for a damaged eardrum. He was released from the hospital on March 26.
Immediately following the beating, police detained four suspects. All four were released without charge on March 27, the Beijing Times reported. While officers at the Fengtai District precinct pledged to resolve the case, little progress had been made by year’s end.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
The Chinese government blocked the Web site of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Australia’s national broadcaster, according to ABC . On April 23, after the Web site had been unavailable for more than a week, ABC officials lodged a complaint with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Public Security Bureau. The government gave no formal response, although the Foreign Ministry told ABC they were investigating the complaint. On April 25, access to the site was restored after ABC officials met with Chinese government representatives.
Chinese censors routinely block the Web sites of major international news agencies, including The New York Times, BBC, and CNN. However, the ABC site had previously been accessible inside China, and network officials said the block was most likely related to a May visit to Australia by the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader whom the Chinese government considers a separatist.
Fung Siu-wing, Ming Pao
Butt Kwong-lai, Cable TV
Chong Chi-chung, Cable TV
Fung, a photographer with the Chinese-language daily Ming Pao, and Butt, a cameraman with Hong Kong’s Cable TV, were harassed by Hong Kong police while covering the officers’ removal of mainland Chinese immigrants protesting for the right to remain in Hong Kong.
Police grabbed Fung as he photographed officers breaking up the demonstration. Officers then dragged him away and handcuffed him for about 15 minutes, according to international reports. Police also handcuffed Butt and verbally harassed reporter Chong, also with Cable TV. Officials then forced the journalists and several of their colleagues to report on the demonstrations from a designated area in a remote corner of the park.
On April 26, Butt and Chong filed a formal complaint against the police. A police spokesperson responded that all complaints would be investigated but that, “There is absolutely no question of police trying to limit press freedom,” according to the South China Morning Post.
In the run-up to the 16th Communist Party Congress, which was held in November, the Central Propaganda Bureau issued a directive to local propaganda offices outlining 32 restricted topics, according to international news reports. Provincial or regional propaganda offices oversee all publications within their territory.
The directive divided the restricted topics into three categories: those that cannot be reported at all; those that must be reported with extra caution; and those that must originate from the official Xinhua News Agency. The list of forbidden topics included Taiwan’s political independence; China’s media policies; recognition of private property rights; and religion among ethnic minorities. Topics that must be reported with greater caution included citizens’ complaints against authorities; private busin¥ss owners who become wealthy; individuals who fight corruption; rural unrest; and the impact of China’s World Trade Organization membership on domestic industries.
Jiang Xueqin, free-lance
Authorities detained free-lance reporter Jiang, a Chinese-born Canadian citizen, in Daqing, Heilongjiang Province, while he was filming labor unrest for the U.S.-based Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). On June 5, Jiang flew to Canada after being deported from China.
A police official in Daqing told Agence France-Presse that Jiang had “made illegal video recordings and violated the law.” However, authorities did not clarify which law Jiang had violated and did not file formal charges against him before his deportation.
Throughout the spring of 2002, tens of thousands of unemployed workers in Daqing staged massive protests against layoffs and the government’s failure to deliver welfare benefits. The Chinese government banned domestic and foreign reporters from covering the unrest, which also erupted sporadically in several other Chinese cities. The protests were the largest in China since the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations.
Jiang has written for The Nation, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Far Eastern Economic Review. He also contributed to a June 17 cover story in Time magazine’s Asia edition on China’s unemployment problem.
Domestic distribution of the June 15 edition of The Economist, which contained an in-depth survey of the country, an editorial titled “Set China’s Politics Free,” as well as articles that mentioned grassroots democracy, labor unrest, political reform, and other sensitive topics, was banned by the Chinese government.
On June 14, The Economist‘s circulation director for Asia-Pacific called China National Publications, a government-owned company with exclusive rights to distribute foreign publications in the country, to ask whether the issue would be distributed. According to international news reports, on June 19, the company responded that “the issue was not legal to distribute.”
About 3,100 copies of The Economist are distributed in mainland China every week. An official at the magazine told reporters that all mainland subscribers had received the June 15 edition, but that all 1,000 copies for sale at hotel newsstands were banned.
International publications such as The Economist are commonly only distributed at newsstands in China’s luxury hotels, and only foreign residents are permitted to subscribe. Authorities often rip out Economist articles about China before distributing the magazine, but this is the first time an entire issue has been banned, said the South China Morning Post.
Government officials blocked the encrypted signal that transmits BBC World television news broadcasts through the Sinosat 1 satellite. The Chinese govern- ment did not offer the BBC any formal explanation for the suspension of broadcasts, according to BBC sources in London. However, the suspension followed a report on BBC World about the banned spiritual group Falun Gong that was broadcast repeatedly on June 30 and July 1.
On July 5, a spokesman for the China International Television Corporation, which regulates foreign programming in the country, told Agence France-Presse that “some programs of the BBC infringed rules on the transmission of foreign programs in China.” He did not clarify which program had offended the government, or which rules had been broken.
BBC World has been broadcast into China via satellite since January 2001. However, because government censors tightly control both foreign and domestic news, the broadcasts are only available in some hotel rooms and in the homes of foreign residents. The majority of Chinese citizens do not see BBC World.
Tao Haidong, free-lance
Zhang Wei, Shishi Zixun, Redian Jiyao
Chen Shaowen, free-lance
All Internet publishers
The “Interim Regulations on Management of Internet Publishing,” which were promulgated jointly by the State Administration of Press and Publishing and the Ministry of Information Technology, went into effect. The regulations outline topics that are forbidden on online news sites, including reports that “harm national unity, sovereignty or territorial integrity”; “reveal state secrets, endanger national security, or damage national honor or interests”; or “disturb the social order or damage social stability.” They also outlaw news “advocating cults or superstition,” which could cover any reports about the banned spiritual group Falun Gong.
The Chinese government routinely uses charges of “revealing state secrets” and “endangering national security” to pros- ecute individuals who publish independent news and opinion. By the end of 2002, fifteen individuals were imprisoned in China for publishing or distributing information online.
During the last few years, the Chinese government has issued a series of regulations limiting online content and holding Internet service providers and Web site publishers responsible for censoring their sites. The latest regulations outline specific penalties, including fines, for online publications that publish illegal content.
Online publishers must designate an editor to examine news content and determine if it violates the new rules. Web sites must also indicate on their front page that the relevant government office has approved the site. Web publishers must report any offending content to the State Administration of Press and Publishing in the capital, Beijing, or to the administration’s regional offices. Operators of Web sites that do not abide by the new rules will face penalties including heavy fines, confiscation of equipment, and closure.
Soon after the regulations were announced in July, Web users inside China initiated a campaign protesting the new rules and demanding freedom of expression on the Internet. One petition, titled “Declaration of Web Citizens’ Rights,” called for freedom of expression, freedom of information, and freedom to organize online. More than 1,000 free-lance writers, Web publishers, and other Internet users–including well-known Beijing-based writers Liu Xiaobo and Yu Jie–signed the statement.
Wan Yanhai, AIDS Action Project
Wan, coordinator of the AIDS Action Project (Aizhi Xingdong) and publisher of the group’s Web site, disappeared while attending a film screening in the capital, Beijing. On August 28, Wan’s wife, Su Zhaosheng, who is studying in Los Angeles, filed a missing-persons report with the Beijing Public Security Bureau. In early September, public security agents informed Wan’s colleagues in Beijing that they were holding him on suspicion of “leaking state secrets,” according to Su. He was not formally charged, and authorities did not inform Wan’s friends or family where he was being held.
On September 20, Wan was released, after international organizations, including CPJ, campaigned vigorously on his behalf. China’s official news agency, Xinhua, as quoted by Agence France-Presse, said that Wan was released after “confessing to his crimes and agreeing to cooperate with police in the investigation.” Xinhua stated that an official from the State Information Office “revealed that Wan had delivered some illegally acquired interior classified documents … to overseas individuals, media sources, and Web sites on August 17, 2002.”
The accusations appear to be tied to a government report documenting the spread of AIDS in Henan Province, which Wan posted on his Web site. Wan, a former employee of the Ministry of Health, started the AIDS Action Project in 1994 to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS in China and support the rights of AIDS victims. Notably, his reporting for the project’s Web site has exposed an AIDS epidemic in Henan Province, where huge numbers of peasants acquired the disease after selling their blood at government-supported clinics. The United Nations has predicted that 10 million people in China could be infected with HIV during the next eight years.
In June 2002, Beijing authorities had shut the offices of the AIDS Action Project. After that, several of Wan’s employees were called in for questioning, and Wan was followed by plainclothes police officers, according to Su Zhaosheng. The Web site (www.aizhi.org) remained accessible.
The Chinese government strictly censors reporting on AIDS, and Chinese and foreign journalists who investigate the topic have faced harassment or detention. Because of this, Wan Yanhai’s Web site was one of the only independent sources of information in China about the disease. Wan was also an outspoken opponent of new Internet regulations, enacted on August 1, that require publishers of all China-based Web sites to register with the government and censor their content or risk being closed.
Yeo Shi-dong, Chosun Ilbo
Just after midnight, seven police officers forcibly entered Yeo’s office, which is based in his family’s Beijing residence, according to a report by Yeo, a Korean citizen and Beijing bureau chief for the South Korean daily Chosun Ilbo. The officers questioned Yeo, searched his home and office, and confiscated documents including his passport, journalist identification card, and government certificate of residency.
Police accused Yeo of failing to properly notify the local police when he moved into the residence on June 18. According to his report, Yeo had notified the Foreign Ministry of his move, as required by Chinese law.
Yeo has written extensively about China’s accelerated efforts to prevent North Korean refugees from seeking asylum in foreign countries by entering embassies in China. As part of the crackdown, officials have prevented journalists from reporting on the defection attempts, which have been occurring regularly since March. Authorities appear to have focused their efforts on South Korean journalists, who are especially active in reporting on the defections.
Liu Di, free-lance