China Media Bulletin: Issue No. 25
A weekly update of press freedom and censorship news related to the People's Republic of China
Issue No. 25: June 16, 2011
* Reporter's sentence extended by eight years on eve of release
* Chinese tech executives catch 'red culture' fever
* New internet regulator shuts down rights websites
* China accused of aiding Ethiopian censorship efforts
* Hackers take up China-Vietnam territorial dispute
Censorship, threats block coverage of petitioner bomber
The Chinese authorities have carefully controlled media coverage of Qian Mingqi, a petitioner who set off a series of May 26 explosions at two government buildings that killed two people, including himself. He had spent 10 years demanding compensation for land and property that was taken by officials in Fuzhou, Jiangxi province. In addition to requiring Chinese media to censor the story and refusing to release Qian's body to his family, the authorities are restricting foreign journalists' access to those who knew Qian. A villager named Xiong Xiaolan was abducted by Communist Party officials and police as she was meeting in public with a reporter for U.S.-based McClatchy Newspapers. Fuzhou city spokeswoman Li Wei told the reporter that it was unnecessary to report on Qian because "he does not represent many people," but public anger at forced home demolitions is increasingly common in China. Through his investigation, the McClatchy reporter found that Qian was actually a businessman, contrary to state media reports that described him as a jobless farmer and suggested that his unemployment made him "disgruntled with the legal system."
* McClatchy 6/9/2011: China works to control coverage of rare bombings <http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/06/09/115538/china-works-to-control-coverage.html>
Reporter's sentence extended by eight years on eve of release
Qi Chonghuai, a Shangdong-based journalist who was scheduled to be released on June 25 after a four-year prison term, was sentenced to another eight years for extortion, blackmail, and embezzlement. As a former reporter at Shangdong's provincial newspaper, the Legal Morning Post, and a deputy director at the China Security Produce News, he was detained in June 2007 after he posted information online about local Communist Party officials' illegal use of tax money on luxurious government offices in Tengzhou city. He was convicted of the additional charges on May 4 based on alleged new evidence related to his previous blackmail charge, and on an accusation that he had misused advertising money from the China Security Produce News. Chinese Human Rights Defenders said that the decision to sentence Qi to such a long period of imprisonment, when he was due to be released "is a clear instance of politically-motivated persecution for his work as a muckraking journalist." According to the New York–based literary rights group PEN American Center, Qi, who is currently being held in Tengzhou Prison, had been forced to perform hard labor without adequate food, water, or rest. His long extended sentence, while rare, forms part of a recent trend of harsh punishments for free expression–related violations.
* Human Rights in China 6/11/2011: Earthquake activist freed after three years in prison; other rights defenders to be released this month <http://www.hrichina.org/content/5374>
* PEN American Center: Qi Chonghuai <http://www.pen.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/1833/prmID/172>
NEW MEDIA / TECHNOLOGY NEWS
Censors suppress videos of migrant worker protests
On June 13, a day after the Chinese military fired tear gas into a crowd of more than a thousand migrant workers in Zengcheng, a factory town in Guangdong province, video clips and photographs of the clashes surfaced on China's internet. The images, recorded using mobile telephones, showed angry mobs torching government buildings, riot police firing tear gas, armored vehicles being deployed, and protesters being handcuffed. The protests were trigged by an altercation between the local police and a pregnant street vendor named Wang Lianmei, who was injured after being pushed on the ground. A test conducted by the China Media Bulletin's editors indicated that the authorities have censored the search term "Zengcheng" on the popular microblogging platforms Sina Weibo and Tencent, which offer no results. Media reports indicate that efforts to search for the term on Google's Hong Kong–based site from mainland China trigger a severing of the connection to the search engine's server. However, the popular search engine Baidu and the state-run Panguso produce links to state media articles. Most of them feature footage of officials making visits to the hospital and chatting cordially with Wang and her husband, who say to the camera that they had been manipulated by protesters.
* IDG News Service 6/14/2011: China blocks some Web searches about migrant protests <http://news.techworld.com/security/3285752/china-blocking-protest-linked-searches>
* Guangzhou Daily 6/14/2011 (in Chinese): Pregnant woman's husband discussed Guangdong riot, claiming they were being manipulated <http://news.sina.com.cn/c/2011-06-14/041022634887.shtml>
* New Yorker 6/14/2011: China: Truth, rumors, and a basket of fruit <http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/evanosnos/2011/06/truth-rumors-and-fruit-baskets.html>
Chinese tech executives catch 'red culture' fever
As the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) carries out a series of "red culture" campaigns to celebrate the 90th anniversary of its founding, more than 60 executives from China's leading internet companies participated in an "Online Media Tour of the Red Homeland" on June 8, singing revolutionary songs and delivering pro-CCP speeches at the site of the party's first congress in Shanghai. The participants included search engine giant Baidu's founder, Robin Li, and the chief executives of the popular web portals Sina and Sohu, Charles Chao and Charles Zhang. The tour was organized by the Beijing city government's Internet Propaganda Management Office (BIPMO) and the Beijing Association of Online Media, a self-proclaimed nonprofit organization headed by BIPMO's deputy chief. Compared with celebrities in China's film industry, well-known media entrepreneurs in the country have rarely been called upon to act as such enthusiastic promoters of the CCP.
* Wall Street Journal 6/9/2011: Chinese tech CEOs pledge to walk 'red' road <http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2011/06/09/chinese-tech-ceos-pledge-to-walk-red-road/?mod=WSJBlog>
* Xinhua 6/8/2011 (in Chinese): Online media executives organized to visit "red homeland <http://news.xinhuanet.com/2011-06/08/c_121509846.htm>
Wife of activist Hu Jia evicted from home
Zeng Jinyan, a blogger and the wife of prominent AIDS and human rights activist Hu Jia, was evicted from her apartment in Shenzhen by her landlord on June 10, shortly before her husband's scheduled release from prison on June 26. She had moved from Beijing in April to escape constant surveillance. Her husband was convicted of "inciting subversion of state power" in April 2008 as a result of his critical comments about the Chinese Communist Party in his writings and in interviews with the foreign media. On her Twitter microblog account, Zeng reported her difficulties finding work: "If I try to find a job, they threaten my boss. If I try to work with someone, they threaten my partner." Her Google e-mail account has been hacked, further restricting her personal communications. Fearing that the family will be placed under tight house arrest upon Hu's release, as has happened to numerous other activists, she told the Guardian that she is planning to ask relatives to take care of the couple's three-year-old daughter so as to spare her the confinement.
* Reporters Without Borders 6/9/2011: Hu Jia's wife, Zeng Jinyan, threatened with eviction <http://en.rsf.org/china-hu-jia-s-wife-zeng-jinyan-09-06-2011,40428.html>
* Guardian 6/10/2011: Chinese human rights activist forced from her home <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/10/zeng-jinyan-hu-jia-blogger-evicted>
Renren to launch credit card program, wedding site
On June 13, China's popular social-networking website Renren and China Merchants Bank (CMB) announced that in July they will jointly launch "Renren CMB credit card," a program that combines mobile services with social-networking features. Cardholders will receive promotional deals offered by CMB's business partners in their vicinity when they "check in" to Renren's website from their current locations. The company also announced that it has partnered with Japan's largest human resources company, Recruit, to open a wedding-services website this winter. The site would offer functions such as online booking of wedding venues. According to online statistics, despite the increasing popularity of circumvention tools, only about 571,000 of China's 420 million internet users have accounts on the U.S.-based social-networking site Facebook, which is banned in China. By comparison, Renren says it has 170 million users, a testament to the Communist Party's success in favoring politically compliant alternatives to international web applications.
* PRNewswire-Asia 6/13/2011: Renren to launch credit card with CMB <http://www.asiamediajournal.com/pressrelease.php?id=2693>
* Penn Olson 6/8/2011: Renren to launch social wedding services <http://www.penn-olson.com/2011/06/08/renren-social-weddings>
New internet regulator shuts down rights websites
On June 7, state-run news agency Xinhua reported that 55 "online public relations" websites had recently been shut down by the State Internet Information Office (SIIO), a regulatory body created under the State Council Information Office in early May. The closures were part of a two-month campaign launched in April in cooperation with the Ministry of Public Security. The SIIO said the sites-which according to a list published by Xinhua included online voting sites, consumer rights organizations, and medical-dispute discussion forums-had disrupted "online order" by creating and manipulating "fake public opinion." On June 14, state media reported that there had recently been a surge in Chinese anticorruption websites and microblogs on which netizens share their bribery experiences without naming those they bribed, after the existence of similar sites in India was reported in the media. On June 10, an employee at one such site told China Daily that it had attracted 60,000 visitors within three days. However, the China Media Project has raised the question of how long such sites will be allowed to remain open, pointing to the disabling of the Sina Weibo microblog account of one of the sites and its disappearance from Baidu search results as possible early indications of official concerns about the phenomenon.
* Xinhua 6/7/2011 (in Chinese): Officials shut down 55 websites that "engage in illegal online promotion" <http://news.xinhuanet.com/2011-06/07/c_121504947.htm>
* China Daily 6/14/2011: On Chinese websites, users confess to giving bribes <http://news.asiaone.com/News/Latest%2BNews/Asia/Story/A1Story20110614-283920.html>
* China Media Project 6/14/2011: Can China's anti-corruption sites last? <http://cmp.hku.hk/2011/06/14/13177>
'Smart' surveillance cameras developed in Hong Kong
The Chinese University in Hong Kong has developed a "smart" video monitoring system. Though it is still in the testing phase, the developers anticipate its implementation within the next two years. The system is able to track individuals in a crowded area and assign them unique identification numbers. The project's lead researcher, Qian Huihuan, admitted that the surveillance technology could be used for political repression, but he insisted that it was created for Hong Kong's public safety, as the system would trigger alerts when it detects suspicious behavior, such as someone leaving a bag and walking away. The Chinese authorities have been known to install cameras around mosques in Xinjiang, Buddhist temples in Tibet, and public areas in other parts of China, including the city of Shenzhen, where 800,000 cameras are installed.
* South China Morning Post 6/12/2011: Big brother just got smarter <http://www.scmp.com/portal/site/SCMP/menuitem.2af62ecb329d3d7733492d9253a0a0a0/?vgnextoid=e8bff0dd0be70310VgnVCM100000360a0a0aRCRD&ss=Hong+Kong&s=News>
Uighur refugee extradited to China, whereabouts unknown
Ershidin Israil, a Uighur schoolteacher who was detained in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in June 2010, was extradited to Urumqi on May 30 at Beijing's request. Israil fled to Kazakhstan in September 2009 after he spoke to Radio Free Asia about the death in custody of a fellow Uighur at the hands of Chinese security forces following ethnic violence in Urumqi in July of that year. Israil was designated a refugee by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and was granted asylum in Sweden in April 2010, but the Kazakhstan government denied his application for an exit visa and arrested him in June. While his current whereabouts are unknown, many Uighurs who fled abroad have been detained, tortured, or executed after being handed over to the Chinese authorities. Along with other human rights groups, Freedom House issued a press release condemning Israil's repatriation and noting that his case is part of a disturbing trend in which neighboring countries bow to Chinese pressure and deport members of vulnerable ethnic and religious minorities, despite international legal norms prohibiting the return of an individual to a country where he or she may be tortured.
* Telegraph 6/6/2011: Kazakhstan extradites Uighur who helped publicise China's brutal suppression of riots <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/kazakhstan/8559754/Kazakhstan-extradites-Uighur-who-helped-publicise-Chinas-brutal-suppression-of-riots.html>
* UNPO 6/3/2011: UN to hear chorus of condemnation over Israil extradition <http://www.unpo.org/article/12737>
* Freedom House 6/2/2011: Freedom House condemns Kazakhstan's decision to deport Uyghur refugee <http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=70&release=1425>
China accused of aiding Ethiopian censorship efforts
Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT), an independent media outlet funded by the Ethiopian diaspora, is urging Beijing to stop providing technical training and equipment to the Ethiopian government. ESAT's management says it has confirmed from reliable sources inside Ethiopia that the Chinese government has been actively assisting the Ethiopian regime's efforts to jam its transmissions, particularly in the past two months. In addition to being forced to change satellites twice because of diplomatic pressure, ESAT has reportedly had its signals jammed at least six times since its launch in April 2010 by a group of exiled Ethiopian journalists. In recent years, allegations have also emerged that Ethiopia has received Chinese assistance with internet censorship and surveillance. Ethiopia is rated Not Free in the 2011 editions of Freedom House's Freedom of the Press and Freedom on the Net indexes.
* Abugida Ethiopian American Information Center 6/15/2011: ESAT accuses China of complicity in jamming signals <http://www.abugidainfo.com/?p=18210>
* Freedom on the Net 4/18/2011: Ethiopia <http://www.freedomhouse.org/images/File/FotN/Ethiopia2011.pdf>
Despite censorship risks, Hollywood courts Chinese market
The sequel of a Chinese-themed American animated film, Kung Fu Panda, broke box-office records in China, taking 125 million yuan ($19 million) on its opening weekend in June. China is set to replace Japan as the second-largest film market after the United States, and its audience has been increasingly wooed by Hollywood. A recent remake of The Green Hornet proved to be a success in China after Mandarin pop singer Jay Chou was chosen to play a starring role despite being little known in the West. Meanwhile, established Hollywood stars have stepped up their publicity in China. In director Zhang Yimou's upcoming epic drama, The Heroes of Nanking, actor Christian Bale plays an American priest who helps hundreds of Chinese citizens escape the 1937 Nanking Massacre. But such closer ties between Hollywood and China may encounter obstacles. Rulings by the World Trade Organization could force the Chinese government to lift quotas on foreign films, meaning more Hollywood filmmakers may seek to conform to Beijing's censorship priorities. According to Time magazine, "As China makes its own movie market more open, the space for making films critical of the Asian powerhouse may continue to shrink."
* Guardian 6/9/2011: Can Hollywood serve China's one billion film-goers? <http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2011/jun/09/china-hollywood-film-industry>
* Hollywood Reporter 6/11/2011: Shanghai International Film Festival bows amid logistical and programming challenges <http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/shanghai-international-film-festival-bows-197014>
* Time 5/25/2011: Can Hollywood afford to make films China doesn't like? <http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2072194,00.html>
Cisco faces second U.S. lawsuit for China repression
On June 6, the California-based information technology company Cisco was sued in U.S. District Court in Maryland by attorney Dan Ward on behalf of three named Chinese writers and 10 anonymous plaintiffs. The named individuals contributed to China Observer, a website on which members publish articles about democratic reform in China. The suit alleges that Cisco supplied the Chinese government with technology and training used to track dissidents' online activities. Cisco's general counsel, Mark Chandler, denied that the company had facilitated Beijing's surveillance of users, adding that the same equipment is distributed worldwide. Cisco now faces two lawsuits on the issue, as an earlier case filed on May 13 seeks compensation for 11 Falun Gong practitioners who were persecuted by the Chinese government for online activities that were allegedly tracked with the assistance of Cisco technology. Meanwhile, on June 15, Xinhua reported on a meeting that day between China's Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang and Cisco CEO John Chambers. According to the report, "Zhang said that he appreciated Cisco's long-term cooperation with China's information and telecommunication industries."
* IT Business Edge Network 6/9/2011: Second lawsuit accuses Cisco of enabling China to oppress citizens <http://www.itbusinessedge.com/cm/blogs/tennant/second-lawsuit-accuses-cisco-of-enabling-china-to-oppress-citizens/?cs=47334>
* Laogai Foundation 6/6/2011: Cisco being sued for aiding and abetting in China's internet crackdown <http://www.laogai.org/press_releases/cisco-being-sued-aiding-and-abetting-china%E2%80%99s-internet-crackdown>
* Cisco 6/6/2011: Cisco supports freedom of expression, an open internet and human rights <http://blogs.cisco.com/news/cisco-supports-freedom-of-expression-an-open-internet-and-human-rights>
* China Daily 6/15/2011: Chinese vice premier meets Cisco chairman <http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2011-06/15/content_12707182.htm>
Hackers take up China-Vietnam territorial dispute
On June 8, Vietnamese government websites were targeted by hackers from China's Jiangsu province, extending the two countries' dispute over territory in the South China Sea to the online sphere. The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry's website experienced denial of service (DDoS) attacks, and hackers defaced its affiliated National Translation Centre, posting a Chinese flag and comments such as "the Nansha [Spratly] Islands belong to China, in the past and the future." Later in the week, access to the Foreign Ministry's website from China appeared to be blocked, though it was accessible from North America and Europe. A Shanghai-based engineer said the connection was stopped at China Telecom's backbone network by either a technical failure or a censorship directive, or possibly as part of an effort to prevent additional hacking attacks.
* South China Morning Post 6/10/2011: Cyberwar rages over disputed archipelagos <http://www.scmp.com/portal/site/SCMP/menuitem.2af62ecb329d3d7733492d9253a0a0a0/?vgnextoid=400c0cacd4570310VgnVCM100000360a0a0aRCRD&ss=China&s=News>
Survey of Chinese investigative reporters published
Chinese media analysts Fei Shen of City University of Hong Kong and Zhang Zhi'an of Fudan University recently completed a study titled Investigative Reporters' Professional Environment in China. The survey, which queried 343 investigative reporters in China from September 2010 to March 2011, shows that the majority of such journalists are male and 35 years old or younger. More than half have been working in the industry longer than six years, and many view Western media outlets such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the BBC, and CNN-as well as China's Southern Metropolis Daily-as exemplars of "model" journalism. Most survey participants agreed that the development of new media has boosted press freedom by facilitating communications and identification of stories. But about 65 percent also said they had confronted pressure from their supervisors and government officials at work. They admitted that low incomes, heavy workloads, and professional risks, including harassment and physical violence, have made them want to leave the field, with only 13 percent saying they believe they will continue in the profession for over five more years. A summary of the report was published by Global Times, and the full study is available from the researchers upon request.
* Global Times 6/14/2011: Crack reporters "burning out" <http://www.globaltimes.cn/NEWS/tabid/99/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/661370/Crack-reporters-burning-out.aspx>