Falling Short: Politics and the Press: A Timeline

Politics and the Press: A Timeline

The flow from censors was daily, unrelenting, and covered every conceivable topic, from the serious to the banal.

December 4, 1982 China adopts constitution. Article 35 states: “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession, and of demonstration.”

1986-90 Period of economic reform and influx of foreign investments, paving the road for future development and privatization.

1986 Qian Gang publishes The Great Tangshan Earthquake, a landmark investigative report about the 1976 disaster.

September 20, 1987 China Academic Network, the first computer network in China, is initiated.

June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. The Tiananmen demonstrations represent a turning point for the press in China. In the months leading up to June 4, journalists had joined the debate on censorship and reform, and had produced sympathetic coverage of the protests.

June 24, 1989 Zhao Ziyang ousted as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party after voicing sympathy for student demonstrators at Tiananmen Square. Jiang Zemin replaces him, and Zhao spends the rest of his life under house arrest.

1989 After the June 4 crackdown, many journalists are dismissed from their jobs, relocated, or detained. Liu Binyan, the influential journalist, writer, and dissident, is blacklisted and goes into permanent exile.

October 1989 Accused of “counter-revolutionary” activities affiliated with Tiananmen, Chen Ziming and colleague Wang Juntao are imprisoned for publishing reformist literature as leaders of the progressive think tank Beijing Social and Economic Research Institute. Chen and Wang are awarded CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award in 1991.

November 6-9, 1989 Jiang Zemin is elected chairman of the Communist Party’s Central Military Commission, continuing his climb to the top of the nation’s leadership.

January-February 1992 Senior leader Deng Xiaoping’s “southern tour” emphasizes the importance of economic reform and development.

March 27, 1993 Jiang Zemin becomes president, serving until 2003.

1996 China Central Television launches the popular investigative program, “News Probe.”

July 1, 1997 The United Kingdom transfers Hong Kong to China.

March 17, 1998 Zhu Rongji is inaugurated as premier of the State Council. Zhu said he believed the news media should act as a watchdog of the government. 1998 The Golden Shield Project, a governmental surveillance and censorship initiative, is launched in part to police information on the Internet.

July 22, 1999 The spiritual movement Falun Gong is banned.

December 20, 1999 Portugal transfers Macau to Chinese rule.

June 3, 2000 Huang Qi, founder of a human rights Web site in China, is imprisoned for “subverting state power.” Qi is released on June 4, 2005, after completing a five-year sentence.

December 4, 2000 Journalist Jiang Weiping is imprisoned for disclosing “state secrets” after reporting on corruption in northeastern Chinese cities. Jiang is named one of CPJ’s International Press Freedom Awardees in 2001. He is released on January 3, 2006.

July 13, 2001 Beijing wins bid to host the Olympics in 2008.

December 11, 2001 China gains entry to the World Trade Organization.

November 15, 2002 Hu Jintao is elected Communist Party general secretary.

November 2002-May 2004 The government attempts to downplay the SARS outbreak and suppress media coverage. The effort backfires under a storm of international criticism.

March 15, 2003 Hu Jintao becomes president. 2004 Three top journalists with Nanfang Dushi Bao (Southern Metropolis News) are imprisoned after the paper reports on controversial issues, including SARS and the death of a suspect in police custody. One, Yu Huafeng, is still in prison on a trumped-up corruption charge.

September 17, 2004 Zhao Yan, a researcher at the Beijing bureau of The New York Times, is imprisoned on suspicion of leaking state secrets. His detention fuels an international outcry. He is later sentenced to three years in prison on a specious fraud charge.

November 24, 2004 Journalist Shi Tao is imprisoned for leaking state secrets after e-mailing notes from an official document instructing the media how to cover the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown. Now serving a 10-year sentence, Shi was awarded CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award in 2005.

January 24, 2006 The government suspends Freezing Point, a well-regarded weekly supplement to the China Youth Daily. Editors Li Datong and Lu Yuegang are reassigned. The moves come after Freezing Point publishes an article criticizing official interpretation of Chinese historical events.

January 1, 2007 Regulations take effect that ease travel and reporting restrictions for foreign journalists in the run-up to the Olympics. The new policy guidelines are set to expire October 17, 2008.