Falling Short: Politics and the Press: A Timeline

Politics and the Press: A Timeline

December 4, 1982   China adopts new 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.”

1984-92   Period of economic reform and influx of foreign investments paves the way for 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 country’s first computer network, is initiated.

June 4, 1989   The crackdown on Tiananmen Square demonstrators represents a turning point for the press in China. In the months leading up to June 4, journalists join the debate on censorship and reform, producing 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, an 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.

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.

1998   The Golden Shield Project, a governmental surveillance and censorship initiative, is launched in part to police information on the Internet.

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 are imprisoned after the paper reports on SARS and the death of a suspect in police custody. One, Yu Huafeng, serves three years in prison.

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.

February 2005   Reporter Li Chang-qing is arrested in Fujian province and sentenced to three years in prison for “fabricating” news. The charge is based on his 2004 reporting for the overseas Web site Boxun in which he detailed an outbreak of dengue fever.

January 24, 2006      The government suspends Freezing Point, a well-regarded weekly supplement to 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 guidelines are set to expire October 17, 2008. Foreign journalists report numerous problems.

October 15, 2007     Government officials ramp up censorship prior to the 17th Party Congress in Beijing. Blogs and Web sites containing “illegal information” are shut down.

December 27, 2007     Dissident Hu Jia is taken into police custody after spending much of the year under house arrest. He is sentenced to three and a half years in prison on subversion charges related to comments he made to foreign journalists and articles he wrote about his activism.

March 2008     Chinese police suppress Tibetan protests in Lhasa and three western provinces. Beijing clamps down on coverage of the protests. Foreign journalists are prohibited from entering the areas.

March 18, 2008     National People’s Congress renews terms for Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.

» return to Chapter 3:
Commerce and Control: The Media’s Evolution