Olympics-China Media Watch: Xinhua sole news source on tourist attack

By Kristin Jones/CPJ Asia consultant on August 9, 2008 9:49 AM ET

Today's news of an attack on tourists at a popular sightseeing spot in Beijing has been handled by Xinhua News Agency alone. Other news outlets are simply re-posting its account. This is the norm for sensitive issues. Xinhua is a part of the central government's State Council and undergoes rigorous pre-censorship, which sets it apart from other Chinese news outlets (which are censored to a lesser degree). It is likely that news organizations received specific instruction from the Central Propaganda Department not to do their own reporting on the attack.

Xinhua's report about the attack was brief. Citing the Beijing city government, it identifies the attacker as Tang Yongming, a 47-year-old resident of Hangzhou. Tang suddenly attacked two American tourists and their Chinese guide at the Drum Tower, Xinhua reported, then killed himself by leaping from the building. One of the tourists was killed, and the other two were injured. The attacker's motive was unknown and the case is under investigation.

It did not mention that the man who was killed was a relative of the U.S. men's volleyball coach.

Totally absent from Chinese coverage is any information on the reported disappearance since Thursday of human rights activist Zeng Jinyan. Zeng is the wife of Hu Jia, who is jailed on a three-year sentence  for commentaries and media interviews challenging government policies. Zeng and her baby daughter have been held under house arrest in Beijing,

Chinese Human Rights Defenders reported the news of Zeng's disappearance from her home, and said that she may be in police custody to stop her from speaking with the media during the Olympics.

The news in China was dominated by the two gold medals won by Chinese athletes. Weightlifter Chen Xiexia won the host country's first gold, followed by Pang Wei in the men's 10-meter air pistol competition.


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