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IFJ Press Freedom in China Campaign bulletin - December 2009

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

1. One Year After Charter 08, Liu Still Detained
2. Cyber Dissident Sentenced to Three Years' Jail
3. IFJ Calls on Obama to Discuss Media Freedom While in China
4. Media Restrictions and Regulations Multiply
5. Business Magazine Staff Quit Over Editorial Interference
6. Journalists Face Bribery Charges
7. Hong Kong's Citizens' Radio Penalised on Charges of Illegal Broadcasting

1. One Year After Charter 08, Liu Still Detained

A leader of the Charter 08 pro-democracy and political reform movement, Liu Xiaobo, remains in detention under charges of "inciting subversion of state power" almost a year after the Charter 08 petition was delivered to China's Government on December 9, 2008. On November 23, the Beijing Security Bureau delayed Liu's scheduled court hearing for an undetermined period and without explanation. It was the third postponement since he was charged on June 23. The petition, which was timed to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has gathered more than 10,000 signatures in the past year. The Charter calls on China's Government to promote and foster a democratic society, defend human rights and uphold freedom of expression - civil values already enshrined in China's Constitution. Leading Charter activists and prominent signatories have reported being interrogated by authorities after information about the Charter reform proposals was formally made public.

2. Cyber Dissident Sentenced to Three Years' Jail

Cyber dissident and co-founder of the 64 Tianwang website ( http://www.64tianwang.com ) Huang Qi was sentenced to three years' imprisonment by the Court of Wuhou in Sichuan Province in November for posting articles related to the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Huang, 46, was detained in June 2008 after posting an article online which criticised the Government's handling of the earthquake disaster in May 2008. The judgement stated that Huang was guilty of "illegal possession of state secrets" because he had obtained three documents which allegedly contained confidential "state secrets". According to Huang's wife, Zeng Li, the documents to which the judgement referred were publicly available on local government websites. She also reported that two elderly supporters were assaulted by unidentified people outside the court as the sentence was handed down, while others were prevented from observing the proceedings. The IFJ has called for Huang's immediate unconditional release.

3. IFJ Calls on Obama to Discuss Media Freedom While in China

As United States President Barack Obama made an official visit to Beijing, China, on November 16, the IFJ called on him to use the opportunity to highlight his concerns for press freedom during his discussions with Chinese government officials. In an open letter, the IFJ reminded Obama of the failure of China's Government to uphold its promise before the 2008 Beijing Olympics to allow greater freedom of expression and the press. The letter further noted Chinese President Hu Jintao's repeated public statements that China would uphold the right of people in China to freedom of the press and freedom of expression. However, journalists in China have contended with more than 200 orders and restrictions by the Central and Provincial Propaganda banning sensitive content since the beginning of 2009. Many journalists and writers including Liu Xiaobo, Huang Qi, Shi Tao, Sun Lin, Hu Jia and Tan Zuoran are in jail for the content of their writings. In his World Press Freedom Day speech on May 1, 2009, Obama said the imprisonment of Chinese human rights activist and writer Hu Jia (sentenced to 3.5 years jail in April 2008 for inciting subversion of state power) was one of the "emblematic examples" of the deterioration of press freedom worldwide.

4. Media Restrictions and Regulations Multiply

A nationwide order for all media to run reports issued by the government news agency Xinhua was imposed by China's authorities during US President Obama's visit to China in November. The order covered any news reports or articles about questions asked at an interactive forum with Obama at the Shanghai Science Technology Museum. People were forbidden from organising for questions to be relayed over the internet and voiced during the event. The IFJ also understands that Guangzhou Cable TV network intercepted the broadcasting signal of Hong Kong's English language Asia Television channel while Obama was answering a question about restrictions on the internet in China. The department also ordered that any media reports about protests or spontaneous news during Obama's visit were not to be published. The November 13 detention in Beijing of Zhao Lianhai, a representative of a group of parents whose children suffered illness or death during China's "tainted milk" contamination scandal in 2008, was not reported in local media due to the media blackout.

5. Magazine Staff Quit Over Editorial Interference

China's Caijing business magazine faces concerns over editorial integrity and managerial interference after the resignation of the publications editor-in-chief, Hu Shuli, on November 9. Hu joins more than 200 staff from the magazine's marketing and editorial departments who have resigned in protest at reports that Caijing's board tried to influence the editorial team. It is claimed the board was pressured by the magazine's parent company, the Stock Exchange Executive Council, and other government-controlled groups. Nine executives and general manager Wu Chuanhui are among the list. Pressure on Caijing reportedly intensified after Hu sent three journalists to cover ethnic-based riots in Urumqi, the capital of China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, in early July, despite Central Propaganda Department orders banning journalists in the area. Articles published in the magazine about a new wave of violence in Xinjiang in September used government-provided information.

6. Journalists Face Bribery Charges

The IFJ called for fair and open trial proceedings for 10 journalists charged with accepting bribes in order not to report on a mining accident in Lijiawa Yu Xian County, Hubei, on July 14, 2008. According to a November 30 report in the State-owned China Daily, the Central Government also reportedly charged 48 officials, including the mine owners, the county chief, work safety officials and police officers in connection with an alleged cover-up. A BBC report at the time of the disaster said officials had allegedly moved bodies, destroyed evidence and bribed journalists to hush up the accident. One rescuer and 34 miners were killed in the accident, which occurred shortly before China was to host the Olympic Games in Beijing in August 2008.

7. Hong Kong's Citizens' Radio Penalised on Charges of Illegal Broadcasting

A November 9 retrial of 14 illegal broadcasting charges against Citizens' Radio of Hong Kong delivered a guilty verdict and ordered six staff - including the station manager Tsang Kin-shing, Hong Kong legislator Leung Kwok-hung and radio station operator Oceans Technology company representative Lo Chau - to pay fines from about US 385 to US 1538. Magistrate Douglas Yau Tak-ong reportedly said attempts by Citizens' Radio staff to continue broadcasting without a licence in an attempt to campaign for greater diversity of radio outlets in Hong Kong were "noble". On January 8, 2008, the same magistrate dismissed all charges against Citizens' Radio on the basis that Hong Kong's broadcasting licence system was unconstitutional. However, Hong Kong's Government challenged the decision in the Court of Appeal, which ruled that the constitutionality of the licensing regime was not a necessary component of the offence of unlicensed broadcasting. Citizens' Radio, which began in 2006, had previously applied to the Broadcasting Authority for a licence but was rejected.

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