China seeks to block news of Liu’s Nobel

New York, October 8, 2010–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on the Chinese government to end its pointless attempts to block the news by blacking out domestic and foreign media coverage of the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s announcement awarding jailed human rights activist Liu Xiaobo the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize

According to foreign news agencies’ reports from China, news of the award is almost non-existent in China’s media and has been blacked out from international news broadcasts on the BBC and CNN. 

Researchers at Hong Kong University’s China Media Project say the official Xinhua News Agency story on the Foreign Ministry response was not put on the front page of Xinhuanet, the news agency’s official website, and the news appeared at none of China’s major commercial Internet news portals.

Despite such efforts to suppress the news, social media websites and telephone texting have spread the story widely. This recalls a similar reaction in Tibet in March 2008, when activists and visitors used cell phones to spread images of civil unrest there, thwarting efforts by the Chinese government to suppress the news.

“China has not learned from past experience that blacking out news coverage of international events is a denial of reality that just does not work,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Today’s blackout has accomplished one thing only: reminding the world how far China will go to suppress the news. Chinese officials should not try to conceal from its own citizens what the entire world knows.”

In announcing the award, the Nobel Committee said, “The campaign to establish universal human rights also in China is being waged by many Chinese, both in China itself and abroad. Through the severe punishment meted out to him, Liu has become the foremost symbol of this wide-ranging struggle for human rights in China.”

An English language statement from Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu posted on the ministry’s website responded: “This is an obscenity against the peace prize. Liu’s actions are diametrically opposed to the aims of the Nobel Prize. Nobel’s behest was that the Nobel Peace Prize be awarded to somebody who promoted peace between peoples, promoted international friendship and disarmament.” The Chinese language version of the statement can be found here.

Liu, 54, was sentenced to an 11-year term on subversion charges on December 25, 2009. A longtime activist who had spent several years in prison during the 1990s, he was arrested in December 2008, the day before a manifesto he wrote with other dissidents and academics appeared on the Internet. That manifesto, Charter ’08, demanded guarantees of civil liberties, judicial independence and the end to the Communist Party’s hold on state power. The Nobel committee cited Liu’s role in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing and the Charter ’08 when it announced its award.

Liu’s final statement before being jailed, I Have No Enemies: My Final Statement, is available in English on the web site China Digital Times. The site also has a link to the original version in Chinese