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IFJ Press Freedom in China Campaign Bulletin - February 2012

(IFJ/IFEX) - 8 February 2012 - The following is an excerpt of IFJ's February 2012 Campaign Bulletin:

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3) Journalist Attacked in Taiwan

A Taiwanese journalist was brutally attacked four days after the national elections in Taiwan. Chiang Wen-hsin, a 57 year old journalist working for the Taiwan Times Newspaper, suffered broken legs, fingers and ribs in the attack. According to Taiwan and Hong Kong media reports, Chiang was attacked by four masked men on the early morning on January 18, 2012 outside his house, four days after the Legislative Council and Presidential Election in Taiwan. Chiang said he had received phone calls from partisan supporters accusing him of biased reporting before the attack. Some critics have speculated that his attack was related to the election. Chiang however did not disclose the identity of the caller. Taiwanese police are investigating the case.

4) Dissident Writer Yu Jie Flees to the United States

Prominent dissident writer Yu Jie, with his wife and a son, fled to the United States on January 11. Yu was subjected to torture by Chinese authorities in 2010. According to various overseas media and Yu's statement posted on Human Rights in China's official website, on December 9, 2010, Yu was abducted by security officers in Beijing and taken to an undisclosed location, with a black hood covering his head. This date was the day prior to the presentation ceremony for the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and jailed dissident writer Liu Xiaobo, a close friend of Yu.

During the abduction, Yu was stripped of his clothes and forced to kneel down. Policemen kicked and beat him. Yu was also slapped repeatedly on his face or forced to slap himself. Policemen also took naked photos of him and threatened to post them on the internet. Yu fainted after a series of such assaults.

During the interrogation, Yu was accused of subversive as a result of his publication of the book "China's Best Actor: Wen Jiabao" in Hong Kong, which viciously attacked the leader of the Communist Party and State. On December 13, 2010, Yu was released, on condition that he promise not to accept interviews with overseas media. Since then he and his wife have been either under heavy surveillance or house arrest. Yu's wife subsequently lost her job due to pressure on her employer from the police. In Yu's statement, he claimed to have completely lost the freedom to publish since Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao took power in 2004. He announced that he will file a complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Council and other international agencies. Meanwhile, he has stated that he will stay in United States with his family for the foreseeable future. No media in Mainland reported the story.

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6) First Democratic Elections Held in Wukan Village, Guangdong

Wukan Village, in China's southern Guangdong province, held their first democratic elections on February 1, after almost two weeks of continued protests in December 2011. On February 1, more than 7,600 villagers were able to choose between eleven candidates for an independent committee to oversee the election of a new village leader in March. However this landmark event was only allowed to be reported by non-local media outlets. "A number of Mainland journalists, including those from The Nanfeng Daily, The Beijing Newspaper, the Economic Observer and Life Weekly Magazine were recalled back to the office by their supervisors after an order was received from the Central Propaganda Department. The journalists actually had already been staying in the village for a number of days. Their names appeared on the order from the Central Propaganda Department, but they do not know who disclosed their identities to the authorities", a Mainland journalist told IFJ. "Only authorised media outlets were allowed to report the news". Furthermore, the Provincial Government officials barred a number of Hong Kong journalists and some civil society representatives from entering Wukan village. However, with the help of sympathetic villagers the Hong Kong journalists were able to enter.

"Elections are an important part of the democratic process, and an event of great public interest. As such, it is important that all media outlets are given equal opportunity to cover them", IFJ Asia-Pacific office said. "The IFJ urges the Guangdong Provincial Government to respect press freedom and the public's right to know, and allow full and open reporting of the upcoming Chinese national elections in March", in line with the policy of greater openness announced by Wang Chen, Director of China's State Council Information Center on January 18, 2012.

7)

German Chancellor's Interview with Southern Weekly Halted by Government

German Chancellor Angela Merkel successfully concluded her fifth official visit to China on February 4, 2012. However, her trip was tainted by the cancellation of an interview originally scheduled with Mainland magazine, Southern Weekly. According to a Mainland journalist, the order to cancel the interview was delivered by the Central Propaganda Department, although no reason was given in the order. However, some journalists have speculated that the cancellation was motivated by the Central Government's fear that the media industry in the southern part of China is gaining strength. During her three day trip in China, Merkel met President Hu Jintao, Wu Bangguo, chairman and party secretary of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and Premier Wen Jiabao. She also visited Guangzhou, in China's southern Guangdong province, and had a brief visit to a local church.

8) South China Morning Post Appoints Politically Affiliated Editor-in-Chief

One of Hong Kong's most influential English-language newspapers, the South China Morning Post, recently appointed Wang Xiangwei, a member of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), as the newspaper's editor-in-chief. Wang worked as a journalist for China Daily, as well as working for a number of English media outlets including BBC Chinese Service, after completing his studies in the United Kingdom. He joined the South China Morning Post in 1996 as a journalist focus on reporting China business news. In 2000, he was promoted as the editor of the publication's China page, followed by a further promotion to deputy editor-in-chief seven years later.

"Impartiality is the most important attribute for any journalists. Given Wang Xiangwei's status as a political affiliate of the Central Government of China, it raises doubts over his impartiality", IFJ Asia-Pacific office said. "The IFJ urges Wang to resign from his political affiliation with the CPPCC, in order to clearly maintain his neutrality as a member of the South China Morning Post's senior management".

9) Foreign Journalists Barred from Investigating Self-Immolation Incidents

A number of China-based foreign journalists have been barred from entering ethnic Tibetan areas to investigate a series of recent self-immolation incidents. According to a CNN report, Chinese authorities have imposed a security cordon preventing journalists entering ethnic Tibetan areas of China's southern Sichuan Province. It is reported that journalists were barred from entering the area by police in Sichuan, citing a variety of different excuses. Other foreign journalists report being followed by unidentified people, being escorted by police back to the airport, being questioning over multiple hours by police, being forced to delete images from their cameras and having their research and writing materials confiscated. "It is very disappointing that China's Public Security Bureau has failed to comply with the regulations introduced after the Olympic Games. These regulations not only provide foreign journalists freedom to publish articles, but also imply freedom of movement in the exercising of their reporting duties", IFJ Asia- Pacific office said. The IFJ calls for the Chinese authorities to abide by their own regulations, and allow foreign journalists freedom of movement in the exercise of their duties.

Click here for the full Campaign Bulletin
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