April 18, 2006
His Excellency Hu Jintao
President, People’s Republic of China
C/o Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Ave.,
NW Washington, D.C. 20008
Via facsimile: (202) 588-0032
Dear President Hu:
The Committee to Protect Journalists is greatly concerned that your government’s media-control policies have led to the unjust imprisonment of journalists and the stifling of press freedom in China. Chinese journalists tell CPJ that they are under growing intimidation from propaganda authorities to adhere to government censors’ rules.
CPJ research shows at least 32 journalists in jail in China at the end of 205. Before being tried, many journalists face long periods of detention. They include:
- Zhao Yan, a New York Times researcher has been detained since 2004 without trial. While he has been held, charges against Zhao have been brought, dropped, and altered with little or misleading information supplied to his defense lawyers.
- Ching Cheong, a Hong Kong-based reporter for the Singapore-based Straits Times has been accused of espionage. On April 22, he will have been in jail for one year without trial.
- Wu Na, the sister of jailed documentary maker Wu Hao, says that after 10 visits to government offices she does not know where her brother is being held or what charges he faces since he was detained by police on February 22.
After long pretrial detentions finally end, many journalists are summarily tried and given long prison sentences. These lengthy sentences are meted out as punishment to journalists who were doing no more than reporting the news. They include:
- Gao Qinrong, a former Xinhua news agency reporter is serving a 12-year sentence since 1998 for exposing a corrupt irrigation scheme.
- Shi Tao is serving a 10-year sentence handed down in 2005 for publicizing propaganda authorities’ instructions on how to cover the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations.
- Li Changqing was sentenced to three years in prison for reporting an outbreak of dengue fever.
Your government’s policy of prolonged pretrial detentions, secretive and arbitrary behavior, hasty trials, and lengthy prison terms is a chilling reminder to journalists not to cross government censorship lines. The press freedom climate is the worst since the aftermath of the crackdown on demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Your country is meeting with great success since the policies of economic liberalization were launched in the 1970s. Other countries have found that as free markets foster growth, a free press is essential to keep pace with the social changes that come with greater wealth. We urge you to reverse your government’s policies of stifling news and unjustly jailing journalists and, instead, turn toward establishing a free and open media.