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String of attacks on media; cyber-dissident charged with illegally obtaining state secrets

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 16 June 2008 IFJ media release:

IFJ Condemns String of Attacks on Media in China

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today said it fears that attacks on journalists are on the rise in China after a recent string of attacks on media that have ranged from unexplained detentions to violent physical assaults on reporters.

Today, Huang Qi, founder of website www.64tianwang.com, was charged with illegally obtaining state secrets by the security bureau of Chengdu, Sichuan, after he and two colleagues were reportedly abducted by plain clothes officers on June 10.

Zhang Guoting, the Denmark-based director of the website, told the IFJ that Huang, Zuo Xiaohuan, a retired university professor, and Pu Fei, a volunteer, were followed by plain clothes officers while on their way to a restaurant and forced into a vehicle.

Zhang said that they were abducted for 'no explicit reason', although he believes it may have been related to the website, which reported on the earthquake in Sichuan last month. Huang had posted three articles by Zheng Hongling criticising authorities' handling of the disaster. Zheng was charged on June 9 for writing those articles.

Huang was imprisoned from 2000 to 2005 on a charge of 'inciting subversion of state power' for posting articles on a website about the Tiananmen Square uprising. During his imprisonment he was repeatedly beaten by authorities, causing severe injuries, including brain trauma. Huang won the Reporters Without Borders Cyber-Freedom Prize in 2004 for his "online defence of free expression and human rights."

"We are deeply concerned for the personal safety of Pu and Zuo. We call on the Chengdu security authorities to immediately investigate the cause of their disappearance," said the IFJ Asia-Pacific Office.

Another news website editor, Ren Shang Yan, 39, of www.shenzheng.net has been detained by police in Shuang Ya Shan, Heilongjang, for more than a month without charges. Kong Qiang, the website's founder, told IFJ that Ren disappeared on May 16 after she reported on a number of unjust cases including labour disputes. The IFJ has also learnt that the website had been shut down by the authorities, who have given no explanation for the closure. The site has now been reopened.

Separately, the IFJ has learnt that state broadcaster CCTV suspended a website editorial team employee for posting a report on a June 4 memorial service in Hong Kong. The report was headlined "48,000 pay tribute to victims of the earthquake at a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong on June 4."

Although the vigil also paid tribute to the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre and the memorial service is held every year in Hong Kong for this very purpose, the article did not mention a single word about this. Five days later the article disappeared from the website, but not before a few Hong Kong newspapers had reported on the CCTV report.

The IFJ has been told that one staffer was suspended and the rest of the staff has been ordered not to leak any information about this case.

The IFJ was told that reporters from at least six media organisations were beaten by thugs after they went to a coal mine to report on illegal mining in Datong, Shanxi Province. Journalists from the magazine under control of the General Office of the State Council, The Chinese Public Administration magazine, the San Jin City News in Shanxi and the Wang Luo Bao in Beijing were threatened and assaulted by people who claimed to be mine security personnel. The journalists' cars were vandalized and all their belongings, including cameras and money, were stolen. One of the journalists was seriously injured and is still in hospital.

The IFJ has also confirmed that on June 13 a number of journalists were forced to leave Juyuan Middle School in Dujiangyuan City as distressed parents attempted to hold a mourning ceremony for their deceased children one month after the earthquake in Sichuan.

Police pushed journalists and photographers into a container trunk and detained them for an hour. A photographer told the IFJ that his camera was damaged in the process.

The IFJ is calling on police in Shanxi and to investigate the violent attack on journalists immediately. It also urged the governor of Dujiangyuan City to conduct an investigation into its officers' rough treatment of reporters at Juyuan Middle School.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 122 countries.

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