Attacks on the Press in China and Hong Kong: 1996 and 1997


Aug. 21, 1997

The Communist Party’s propaganda department, the Culture Ministry, and the Press and Publications Administration banned Chen Fang’s 1997 book, Wrath of Heaven: A Mayor’s Severe Crime, for posing a threat to Chinese leadership with its coverage of government corruption. Though a novel, the book describes the infamous 1995 corruption scandal involving the former mayor of Beijing, Chen Xitong, and Wang Baosen, deceased deputy mayor.

In May, public security officers arrested six people in connection with the printing, publication, and distribution of the novel. The whereabouts of these people remained unknown.

Li Wenming and Guo Baosheng,
Workers’ Forum

May 29, 1997
Li and Guo were convicted for “publishing articles,” “forming illegal groups,” and “organizing seminars,” and sentenced to nearly four years in prison. They were arrested in May and June 1994 respectively, in connection with an unofficial journal they had established early that year called Workers’ Forum. They were charged in July 1996 and tried in November 1996. Suffering from kidney failure and without access to proper medical care, Li was expected to be released on Nov. 11, 1997, and Guo Baosheng on Dec. 3, 1997.

Jurgen Kremb, Der Spiegel
April 28, 1997

Chinese authorities detained Kremb, the Beijing correspondent for the German magazine Der Spiegel, and placed him under house arrest for “unauthorized news reporting” after he met with the family of jailed dissident Wei Jingsheng. Chinese police detained Kremb, along with Wei Xiaotao, the brother of Wei Jingsheng, in the town of Bazhen, in Anhui Province, as he had lunch with three other members of the Wei family. Both Kremb and Wei were taken to a hotel in nearby Chaohu City and placed under house arrest for two days.

Authorities confiscated Kremb’s passport, Chinese residency card, and return plane ticket to Beijing. They demanded he turn over his notes and film and sign a confession admitting that he had conducted illegal interviews. Kremb refused, saying his visit was strictly personal, not part of his work. He was released from house arrest on April 29 and his passport, residency card, and plane ticket were returned. Under Chinese regulations, foreign journalists must obtain a permit from the Chinese Foreign Ministry to travel outside Beijing and are usually assigned an official guide.

Wang Dan, free-lancer
Oct. 30, 1996

Wang, a former student leader, pro-democracy activist, and frequent contributor to foreign publications, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for conspiring to subvert the government. He had been detained at an undisclosed location since May 1995. Wang’s offenses included publishing articles that were deemed objectionable by Beijing and receiving donations from foreign human rights groups. Foreign reporters were barred from the courtroom during his trial, which started Oct. 30, and the domestic press was prohibited from reporting. International observers, representatives of international human rights organizations, and the diplomatic community were also denied access to the legal proceedings. On Nov. 10, the Beijing Higher People’s Court took 10 minutes to reject his appeal. He was immediately sent to a prison in remote Jinzhou, in Liaoning Province. Wang previously had been jailed for nearly four years after he led pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Oct. 16, 1996

Chinese vice premier and foreign minister, Qian Qichen, said that Hong Kong’s media would not be allowed to print “rumors and lies” or personal attacks on Chinese leaders after China assumed sovereignty over Hong Kong. Qian’s remarks were echoed by a Xinhua news agency official in Hong Kong, Wen Xinqiao, who said on Oct. 21 that the media would not be allowed to report on dissidents if the articles advocated opposition to the Chinese central government or the principle of “one country, two systems,” or made personal attacks on Chinese leaders.

Liu Xiaobo, free-lancer
Oct. 8, 1996

Liu, a writer and a long-standing critic of the Chinese government, was arrested and sentenced to three years in a “re-education through labor” camp. It is believed his sentence was related to his campaign for freedom of speech and for the right to form independent political parties.

Liu also was imprisoned in June 1989 for his role in the Tiananmen Square democracy movement. Since his release in January 1991, he has not been allowed to teach or publish. He again was detained in May 1995 and held without trial until January 1996 for campaigning for human rights and the establishment of a constitutional court.

Cui Enqing, Beijing Youth Daily
Sept. 9, 1996

The Communist Party’s propaganda department removed Cui from his post as president of the Beijing Youth Daily, Beijing’s most popular morning newspaper, after the paper reported on a poisoning case. The Beijing Youth Daily reported in June 1996 that several children in Anhui province had died after drinking a beverage manufactured by the state-owned Hangzhou Wahaha Group. Sales plunged, prompting executives to take their case to China’s propaganda chiefs.

Cable News Network CENSORED
The Washington Post CENSORED
The New York Times CENSORED
The Wall Street Journal CENSORED
The Los Angeles Times CENSORED
Voice of America CENSORED
Time magazine CENSORED
China Digest News CENSORED
Aug. 29, 1996

Chinese authorities blocked access to several Internet sites run by Chinese- and English-language media organizations. Among those were sites operated by CNN, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, Voice of America, and Time. Several Chinese-language news sites run from outside China, including China Digest News and the Hong Kong-based daily newspaper Ming Pao, also were blocked. That followed a government announcement in February that laws against pornography, social disturbances, and state security breaches applied to the Internet, and that all Internet servers must operate through the Ministry of Ports and Telecommunications, which controls China’s two gateways to the Internet. Since then, these and other sites have been subject to intermittent blocking.

Economic Work Monthly CENSORED
Aug. 9, 1996

The Communist Party’s propaganda department suspended publication of Economic Work Monthly, based in Guizhou Province. That came after authorities issued an internal notice on Aug. 9 banning newspapers and magazines from reprinting two articles by economist Cao Siyuan, which were carried in the magazine’s July edition. Cao’s articles were critical of a tract known as the “10,000-word essay,” which urged a return to class struggle and warned of the erosion of the state sector by private enterprise.

Voice of Tibet (VOT) HARASSED
July 8, 1996

Chinese authorities increased their jamming of VOT, a Tibetan radio station produced in Oslo and broadcast from outside China. China Radio International on July 8 began occupying VOT’s bandwidth with Easy FM, an English-language music service. China Radio until then had been a domestic service and had never broadcast on a short-wave frequency. To avoid the jamming, VOT on July 22 began transmitting on a different short-wave frequency, and since then authorities have not attempted to disrupt the service again. Easy FM continued to be broadcast on the old VOT frequency.

Louis Wong, South China Morning Post
Journalist, Oriental Daily News
Journalist, Hong Kong Standard
Journalist, Apple Daily HARASSED
Journalist, Asia Television HARASSED
Journalist, Hong Kong Daily News
19 other journalists HARASSED
July 1, 1996

Chinese police detained 25 Hong Kong journalists at Beijing’s airport, where the journalists were attempting to cover the arrival of eight Hong Kong legislators. The legislators were planning to deliver a petition to the Chinese government protesting China’s plans to dismantle the elected Hong Kong Legislative Council after the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China.

Beijing police boarded a plane from Hong Kong that was carrying the legislators and 12 journalists. The police expelled all the legislators and one journalist from the Oriental Daily News in Hong Kong.

Other journalists aboard the plane were allowed to disembark. But they and a number of journalists already in the airport were detained on the tarmac, at the immigration desk, or inside the airport terminal. Immigration officials forced several journalists to sign statements of “repentance” after the officials found them carrying press releases and other documents issued by the Hong Kong legislators’ coalition.

Chito Romana, ABC News
Richard Tullis, ABC News
June 4, 1996

Beijing security police detained ABC News producer Romana and cameraman Tullis as they filmed Beijing University’s campus. Romana and Tullis, who were held for two hours, were forced to erase the footage they had shot. The detention came on the seventh anniversary of the military assault on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. The demonstrations had begun in the Beijing University area.

All media CENSORED
June 4, 1996

Ding Guangen, the head of the Communist Party’s propaganda department, ordered Chinese journalists not to investigate scandals involving senior Communist Party officials. Ding’s order came after critical press coverage of Chen Xitong, Beijing’s Communist Party chief, who was forced to step down from his post after evidence of corruption involving senior Beijing officials.

Shui An-teh, Taiwan Television Enterprise (TTE) HARASSED, EXPELLED
Chuang Chi-wei, TTE
March 10, 1996

Chinese authorities deported the TTE reporters after detaining them for two days for videotaping Chinese troops conducting military exercises in southeastern Fujian Province. According to China’s official Xinhua news agency, the two journalists signed confessions of their wrongdoing, a usual condition of release for foreign journalists detained in China. Upon arriving in Hong Kong, both reporters said they were unaware that they had been taping in a restricted area and said they were engaged in ordinary reporting activities.

On March 15, 1996, CPJ issued a press release saying Shui and Chuang’s detention fit a pattern of continued harassment by China of Taiwanese journalists.

Jin Zhong, Open Magazine EXPELLED
March 4, 1996

Jin, the editor of the Hong Kong-based Open Magazine, said that Chinese immigration officials had revoked his permit to enter Shenzhen, a city in mainland China near Hong Kong. Jin said he was detained by immigration police on his way to visit relatives in Shenzhen. After keeping him in a room for 90 minutes, the immigration police told him he was not welcome in Shenzhen. Open Magazine, published since 1987, often is critical of China’s policies.

All media HARASSED
Jan. 16, 1996

The Chinese State Council granted the official Xinhua news agency the exclusive right to distribute foreign news in China, so as “to ensure national security.” The edict forbade domestic organizations from buying economic information directly from foreign sources and allowed Xinhua to set subscription rates for foreign news vendors. The edict also threatened to punish foreign vendors if their information was considered slanderous to China.

Henrik Bork, Frankfurter Rundschau
Dec. 19, 1995

Chinese authorities told Bork, Beijing bureau chief of the German daily Frankfurter Rundschau, that his working and residential visas would not be renewed upon their Dec. 27 expiration. Foreign Ministry officials told Bork that his reporting was “biased” and that he had “negatively influenced German public opinion about China.” Bork said China had warned him about his coverage on several occasions, particularly after Prime Minister Li Peng’s 1994 visit to Germany, which was marred by public demonstrations against China’s human rights record. Bork had worked in China for four years and contributed reports to several German-language newspapers based in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. His expulsion came despite an appeal by German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel for Beijing to reconsider its decision.


May 31, 1996

Lu Ping, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of China’s State Council, said that after China assumed sovereignty over Hong Kong, the media would not be allowed to advocate independence for Hong Kong or for Taiwan. On June 5, he said that press freedom would be guaranteed, but he drew a distinction between reporting news and advocating action. “Advocating is not press freedom and is different from objective reporting,” Lu said.

China’s information minister, Zheng Jianhui, echoed Lu’s position and suggested that Hong Kong journalists follow the example of their mainland Chinese counterparts: “If [Taiwanese President] Lee Teng-hui stands up and says something, you can report it just like we do. As long as someone else says it, that’s okay.”

Leung Tin-wai, Surprise Weekly
May 15, 1996

Assailants severed the left forearm of Leung, a veteran Hong Kong journalist, in an attack at his office two days before the scheduled debut of his new newspaper, Surprise Weekly. Two men entered Leung’s office and asked to see him. Leung led them into a conference room and shut the door behind him. Shortly afterward, staff members heard Leung cry for help. Another journalist was knifed as the two assailants ran out. Leung was taken to a local hospital where doctors reattached his arm. Two 18-inch knives were later found on the building’s first floor.

Leung had recently assumed publishing duties at Surprise Weekly, which faced fierce competition for readership. Local journalists told CPJ that the attack might have been organized by competitors or distributors; newspaper distribution in Hong Kong is closely connected with organized crime.

CPJ sent a letter on May 17, 1996, to Hong Kong’s Gov. Christopher Patten, urging the colony’s authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the attack. In October 1996, Hong Kong police announced a $650,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the attackers.


China (17)

Fan Jianping, Beijing Ribao
Imprisoned: 1989

Fan, an editor at Beijing Ribao (Beijing Daily), was arrested sometime after the Tiananmen Square crackdown of June 4, 1989.

Ji Kunxing, Pioneers
Imprisoned: September 1989

Ji was tried in Kunming on charges of “fomenting a counterrevolutionary plot.” He and three others had published an underground magazine called Pioneers, circulated anti-government leaflets, and put up anti-government posters.

Jin Naiyi, Beijing Ribao
Imprisoned: 1989

Jin, a journalist with Beijing Ribao, was arrested after the Tiananmen Square crackdown of June 4, 1989.

Li Jian, Wenyi Bao
Imprisoned: July 1989

Li, a journalist with Wenyi Bao (Literature and Arts News), was arrested and detained.

Shang Jingzhong, Pioneers
Imprisoned: September 1989

Shang was tried in Kunming on charges of “fomenting a counterrevolutionary plot.” He and three others had published an underground magazine called Pioneers, circulated anti-government leaflets, and put up anti-government posters.

Shi Qing, Pioneers
Imprisoned: September 1989

Shi was tried in Kunming on charges of “fomenting a counterrevolutionary plot.” He and three others had published an underground magazine called Pioneers, circulated anti-government leaflets, and put up anti-government posters.

Yang Hong, Zhongguo Qingnian Bao
Imprisoned: June 13, 1989

Yang, a reporter for Zhongguo Qingnian Bao (China Youth News), was arrested in Kunming and charged with circulating “rumormongering leaflets” and protesting against corruption.

Yu Anmin, Pioneers
Imprisoned: September 1989

Yu was tried in Kunming on charges of “fomenting a counterrevolutionary plot.” He and three others had published an underground magazine called Pioneers, circulated anti-government leaflets, and put up anti-government posters.

Yu Zhongmin, Fazhi Yuekan
Imprisoned: 1989

Yu, a journalist with Fazhi Yuekan (Law Monthly) in Shanghai, was arrested sometime after the Tiananmen Square crackdown of June 4, 1989. He was later described in an article in Wenhui Daily as an “agitator” of the Shanghai student demonstrations.

Chen Yanbin, Tielu
Imprisoned: Late 1990

Chen, a former Qinghua University student, was arrested in late 1990 and sentenced to 15 years in prison and four years without political rights after his release. Together with Zhang Yafei, he had produced an unofficial magazine called Tielu (Iron Currents) about the 1989 crackdown at Tiananmen Square. Several hundred mimeographed copies of the magazine were distributed. The government termed the publication “reactionary” and charged Chen with dissemination of counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement.

Zhang Yafei, Tielu
Imprisoned: September 1990

Zhang, a former student at Beifang Communications University, was arrested and charged with dissemination of counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement. In March 1991, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison and two years without political rights after his release. Zhang edited an unofficial magazine called Tielu (Iron Currents) about the 1989 crackdown at Tiananmen Square.

Wu Shishen, Xinhua news agency
Imprisoned: October or November 1992

Arrested in 1992, Wu, a Xinhua news agency reporter, received a life sentence in August 1993 for providing a Hong Kong journalist with a “state classified” advance copy of President Jiang Zemin’s 14th Party Congress address.

Gao Yu, Free-lancer
Imprisoned: October 2, 1993

Gao Yu was detained two days before she was to depart for the United States to start a one-year research fellowship at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
On Nov. 10, 1994, she was tried without counsel and sentenced to six years in prison for “leaking state secrets” about China’s structural reforms in articles she wrote for the pro-Beijing Hong Kong magazine Mirror Monthly.

Gao Yu had previously been jailed for 14 months following the June 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations and released in August 1990 after showing symptoms of a heart condition. On May 3, 1997, Gao Yu was awarded the World Press Freedom Prize by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. The Chinese government attacked UNESCO and condemned its director for honoring Gao Yu.

Ma Tao, China Health Education News
Imprisoned: August 1993

Ma, editor of China Health Education News, received a six-year prison term for allegedly helping Xinhua news agency reporter Wu Shishen provide a Hong Kong journalist with President Jiang Zemin’s “state classified” 14th Party Congress address. Ma is believed to be Wu’s wife.

Xi Yang, Ming Pao
Imprisoned: Sept. 27, 1993

Xi, the Beijing correspondent for the Hong Kong daily Ming Pao, was arrested on Sept. 27, 1993, and was sentenced on March 28, 1994, to 12 years in prison for stealing and publishing state secrets. The secrets in question included unpublished interest rate changes on savings and loans at the People’s Bank of China, as well as information on the bank’s international gold transaction plans, both of which were provided to Xi by a bank official. Xi was released on parole on Jan. 25, 1997, following widespread appeals in Hong Kong and abroad. Under the terms of his parole, Xi is free to travel between Hong Kong and China, but may not work as a journalist for the duration of his parole term.

Wei Jingsheng
Imprisoned: April 1, 1994

Police detained Wei, one of the most prominent dissidents in China and former co-editor of the pro-democracy journal Tansuo (Explorations), shortly after he met with John Shattuck, the U.S. assistant secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Wei was not formally arrested and charged until Nov. 21, 1995. On Dec. 13 of that year, a Beijing court convicted him of “conspiring to subvert the government” and sentenced him to 14 years in prison.

Foreign reporters were barred from attending the trial. His sentence was upheld on Dec. 28, after a closed appeal hearing. Wei before that had served 14 years of a 15-year sentence for “counter-revolutionary” activities that included writing essays criticizing the government and promoting democratic rule. After he was released on parole from that prison term, on Sept. 14, 1993, he wrote several opinion pieces for publications abroad and made a deal with a Hong Kong magazine to publish his prison memoirs, which prompted an official warning that he was violating his parole.

In June 1997, Wei was severely beaten by six criminals assigned to guard him in prison. Wei, suffering from several chronic illness, was being detained in worsening prison conditions. Viking Penguin this year published a collection of letters Wei addressed to his family and to the Chinese government in The Courage to Stand Alone: Letters from Prison and Other Writings. The book includes the text of his famous essay “The Fifth Modernization,” which called for democracy and challenged Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.

Wang Dan
Imprisoned: May 21, 1995

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