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IFJ Press Freedom in China Campaign Bulletin - March 2012

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

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3) Two Dissidents Punished for Exercising Freedom of Expression

Zhu Yufu, a dissident from China's eastern province of Hangzhou, was sentenced to seven years imprisonment on February 10, 2012 in the People's Immediate Court in Hangzhou Province. Zhu was one of the founders of a Democracy Party of China which is not recognized by the Central authority. He was detained by police on March 5, 2011 after protests arising from calls for a 'Chinese Jasmine Revolution' in February 2011. He was charged and convicted of inciting subversion of state power, citing as evidence a poem he has posted online which encouraged people to participate in the pro-democracy protest in 2011. Zhu was also deprived of three years of political rights.

Another man claimed that local government officials forced him to lose his job after he posted a number of articles online which promoted democracy. According to a Radio Free Asia report dated February 27, Zhang Shengyu was sacked by his employer on 26 February because of pressure from the government of Zengcheng, in Guangzhou province. The report said Zhang posted a number of articles promoting democracy and freedom on his microblog. He also expressed his concerns about the Wukan election and the conditions of blind human rights activist Cheng Guangcheng. Zhang believes that this upset local government officials, who punished him indirectly through applying pressure to his employer.

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5) Government Fails to Disclose Facts of Wang Lijun Incident

On February 8, the Government of Chongqing suddenly announced via microblog that Vice Mayor Wang Lijun, 52, was taking "vacation-style-treatment", after suffering from long term work pressure. However, the government spokesperson refused to address the rumor that Wang had visited the United States consulate in Chengdu, close to Chongqing, and that a number of army personnel had surrounded the consulate. On the same day, the United States spokesperson in Washington, Victoria Nuland, confirmed that Wang had visited the consulate on February 6 and left of his own volition. The Central Government of China then confirmed the information through the official media, Xinhua, on February 9. The report said Wang had stayed in the consulate for one night, but still did not disclose whether army personnel were sent to Chengdu in response to Wang's visit. After the Government of Chongqing disseminated the news, all the Chinese media received an order from the Central Propaganda Department that they could only republish the official Xinhua report. However, online discussion on the matter continued. Since Wang's disappearance from Chengdu, the Central Authority has released no further information about his situation. A prominent scholar, Mao Yushi, asked the Central Government to release all relevant information on Wang on February 12. Wang was labeled as an anti-mafia police chief in Chongqing by local media and he was appointed as the Vice Mayor of Chongqing in May 2011. It was reported that he had a very close relationship with the Party's secretary of Chongqing, Bo Xilai, who is widely expected to become one of the leaders in China. On 2 February 2012, the Chongqing Government announced that Wang had been removed from the position of Police Chief of Chongqing and will oversee matters related to education, technology and the environment.

6) Censorship Ramped Up for National Political Meetings

On the eve of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and National People's Congress, held on 3 March and 5 March respectively, the Central Authority as usual launched a blanket censorship of all information using the excuse of preventing access to any pornographic or vulgar information. The Director of the State Council Information Office, Wang Chen, reminded all officers of nine government bureaus, including the General Administration of Press and Publication and the State Administration of Radio Film and Television, that they should prevent any pornographic and vulgar information from being disseminated through the internet and mobile phones. During the speech on February 27, Wang said that the "purification of the internet and mobile communications" is related to the stability of the country and the spirit of Socialism. The newly launched censorship campaign will last for six months from March.

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8) Claims of Political Interference in Hong Kong Elections

The new Hong Kong Chief Executive will be elected on March 25, 2012. It has been alleged that the Government of Hong Kong aided the election campaign of one of the candidates, Henry Tang, former Secretary of the Hong Kong Government, by publicly releasing negative information about another candidate, Leung Chun-Ying, former convenor of the Executive Council of Hong Kong. On February 8, the Hong Kong Government issued a press stating that Leung had failed to declare a conflict of interest in a tender process for the West Kowloon Cultural Hub ten years ago. When Hong Kong's media queried why this information had been released now, after over ten years, the spokesperson explained that the information was released based upon a request from the media. However when requests were made for the Government to release all the information related to the claim, rather than the selected information that was released, these requests were denied, citing the need to protect individuals' privacy. In response to public demands, the Legislative Council formed a special committee to investigate the case, and has demanded that the relevant department release all documents relating to the matter.

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