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IFJ Press Freedom in China Campaign bulletin - November 2009

(IFJ/IFEX) - November 8, 2009 - In this bulletin:

1. Accreditation System Shuts Out Citizen Journalists
2. Internet Clampdown on Pro-Democracy Content
3. Dissident Writer Sentenced to Jail
4. Heavy Surveillance on Charter 08 Activists Continues
5. Police Detain Uyghur Website Editor
6. Journalist Reports Violent Arrest by Police
7. Journalist Refuses to Disclose Sources
8. Japanese Advertisement Angers Netizens
9. Chinese Entries Invited for International Competition

1. Accreditation System Shuts Out Citizen Journalists

A new accreditation system for journalists was introduced by the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) on October 15. The system provides administrative powers to control citizen journalism by preventing some journalists from gaining press cards. GAPP representatives said a black list system will be established to identify all journalists who it alleges are at risk of violating the law. Anyone on the list will not have their press cards validated. Under the system, an accredited journalist is defined as a media professional working in the editorial department of a media outlet. It excludes anyone who conducts journalistic work outside such media outlets as well as those who work for non-mainstream media outlets and information services. Local reports say this new definition is intended to restrict and control citizen journalism in China, whereby many human rights-related websites are providing news services to circumvent online censorship.

2. Internet Clampdown on Pro-Democracy Content

Authorities in China have stepped up online-censorship measures, informally known as the Great Fire Wall of China, in response to a memorial website on Twitter at http://www.berlintwitterwall.com . The Berlin Twitter Wall invites people to post reflections and commentary about the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in Germany on November 9. The Berlin Twitter Wall project was reportedly blocked in China just days after its launch on October 20. Similarly, a website called Free China Forum ( http://www.zyzg.us ), which is dedicated to discussion on political reform, was also blocked without explanation. Online discussion boards, blogs and reporting on issues of freedom and democracy have also been targeted. Nan Feng Chuang Magazine was reportedly ordered to delete an article titled "China must implement democracy" from the magazine from its website on October 21. A blogger who reported on the fatal bashing of a Shandong woman on October 3 reported his blog was shut down by his internet service provider. The article reported that the woman, who had travelled to Beijing to lodge a complaint against authorities, was in the custody of Shangdong police when she died. A group of 15 people including writers and lawyers published a proposed Internet Rights Declaration on October 8 calling on China's Government to encourage, guarantee and respect the public's right of access to the internet. No response from the Government has been reported.

3. Dissident Writer Sentenced to Jail

Guo Quan, a former academic of Nanjing University, was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment on October 16 on charges of "subversion of state power". According to Li Jing, Guo's wife, the sentence was handed down without notice to her or Guo's lawyer. Li confirmed the sentence after contacting China's Security Bureau on October 17. Guo's lawyer was also reportedly threatened by police not to appeal or speak with foreign media. Guo's communications devices including QQ, MSN, and Skype had reportedly been bugged by security officers, the judgement said. In 2007, Guo - as founding Chairman of the China New Democracy Party - wrote open letters to President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao calling for pluralistic political reform. He was arrested on May 12, 2008 in Sichuan province for writing critical articles about the quality of school buildings destroyed in the Sichuan earthquake. Verdicts are pending for writer Tan Zuoren and website founder Huang Qi, who were also prosecuted for investigating the collapse of schools and helping victims after the earthquake. The families of both detainees have been denied access to them for almost three months.

4. Heavy Surveillance on Charter 08 Activists Continues

Key signatories of the Charter 08 pro-democracy political reform petition, sent to China's authorities to mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 2008, told the IFJ that authorities have not reduced the heavy surveillance which preceded China's National Day on October 1. Zhang Zuhua and Jiang Qisheng, two Charter 08 leaders, are still unable to move or communicate freely. Authorities allege the increased surveillance was necessary for a visit by US President Barack Obama scheduled for mid-November. However, Jiang reported that all his communication devices are hacked, tapped or traced on a daily basis. Luo Yongquan, another Charter 08 signatory who was imprisoned in May for two years for writing anti-government poetry and for signing the petition, is reportedly not receiving adequate food and is forced to work in bare feet, human rights groups said. Immigration authorities also reportedly refused to allow the secretary of the Writers in Prison Committee and Charter 08 signatory Li Jianhong entry into China on October 15 and 16. Li is now living in Sweden and unable to enter China despite being a Chinese citizen.

5. Police Detain Uyghur Website Editor

A former editor of Uyghur Online http://www.uighurbiz.net told the IFJ he was detained by police in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on October 1. His family received a formal notice from the police a few days later. Due to the clampdown on Uyghur-language websites and all modes of communication with people living in the region, no updates about the editor's welfare are currently available. According to a report by Radio Free Asia, he was detained for allegedly endangering social stability during the riots between Uyghur and Han ethnic groups in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi in early July. He reportedly criticised local government, wrote and published articles about violent attacks by police on protesters, and accepted interviews with foreign media.

6. Journalist Reports Violent Arrest by Police

Zhang Jinxing, a journalist for Cheng Du Shang Bao newspaper, was reportedly assaulted and detained for eight hours by police from Laocheng District, Luoyang, in Henan Province, while reporting on a traffic accident on October 20. Zhang said he was surrounded by police who then kicked and punched him until he lost consciousness. When he regained consciousness, he was handcuffed to a chair inside a police station and was refused access to a telephone and the toilet. Police reportedly twisted his wrists backwards when Zhang demanded an explanation for his arrest. His camera and mobile phone were taken from him. The Laocheng police claim that they removed Zhang from the accident site for allegedly arguing with the accident victim and for resisting police intervention. An investigation by the prosecution department and the police disciplinary committee is under way.

7. Journalist Refuses to Disclose Sources

Chiangjiang Times journalist Yao Haiying, from Jiang'an City, Wuhan Province, told the IFJ he was forced by police on September 16 to provide information about sources for an investigative story. In a letter posted online at http://club.cat898.com/newbbs/dispbbs.asp?boardid=1&id=3061857 , Yao said he had received several phone calls and messages from a Jiang'an City judiciary department officer after publishing a report on September 4 alleging malpractice in the department. After repeated calls and harassment, the Chiangjiang editor-in-chief sent a formal letter to the officer on September 27 refusing to reveal sources. However, Yao said the officer dismissed the letter and continued to harass him. On October 16, the head of the Jiang'an City judiciary prosecution section, Zhang Zhenguo, said Yao had misunderstood the officer's request for information as a notice for interrogation.

8. Japanese Advertisement Anger Netizens

The Beijing Provincial propaganda department issued an order for all media to delete images of President Hu Jintao in front of a billboard advertising the Japan-based company Toshiba during China's National Day Parade on October 1. According to Kyodo News Agency, a Beijing-based Japanese media outlet, the order was made in response to heated online debates among netizens and nationalists criticising China's Government for allowing a picture of the President to be used with a Japanese advertisement.

9. Chinese Entries Invited for International Competition

Dutch international public broadcaster Radio Netherlands Worldwide has launched a competition to promote more interaction with its audience internationally. The competition is being run in Chinese, as well as Arabic, Dutch, English, French, Indonesian, Portuguese and Spanish. Participants are invited to send in stories in the form of videos, photos or short stories by December 4. The jury includes Chinese blogger Shugang Zhou among several senior journalists and editors worldwide. First prize is a one-week trip to the Netherlands with a unique work placement in a Radio Netherlands editorial department. For more information, see http://www.rnw.nl .

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