China Media Bulletin: Issue No. 26
A weekly update of press freedom and censorship news related to the People's Republic of China
Issue No. 26: June 23, 2011
* Ministry plans blacklist to curb public health reporting
* 'Red' song campaign goes nationwide
* Ai Weiwei wins conditional release, friends still missing
* Popular bribery-reporting websites forced offline
* State media hail Xinjiang party boss's low-key U.S. visit
Foreign reporters harassed in Guangdong factory town
On June 16, Beijing-based CNN correspondent Eunice Yoon and her crew were summoned by authorities in Xintang, a Zengcheng County factory town in Guangdong province, while investigating the previous week's protests by more than a thousand migrant workers. They were taken to a government building by six propaganda officials, who told them the town had been declared a special zone in which journalists required additional permits. In violation of rules allowing foreign reporters freedom of movement, the authorities had used similar claims in February in Beijing's Wangfujing shopping district, where anonymous online calls for prodemocracy protests had encouraged netizens to gather. In Xintang, Yoon said that before the propaganda officials arrived, workers had proactively approached her to be interviewed on camera despite the presence of police-a highly unusual act in China. The government has censored the internet to downplay the worker protests, and a police notice published in the Zengcheng Daily on June 19 offered rewards of up to 10,000 yuan ($1,550) for anyone who informed on participants in the protests. Migrant workers who provided such information would be granted local residency rights.
* CNN 6/17/2011: China's riot town: 'No one else is listening' <http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/06/17/china.riot.town.yoon/index.html?hpt=hp_c1>
* Financial Times 6/20/2011: Chinese police appeal for riot informers <http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/e43bc3ec-9b5c-11e0-bbc6-00144feabdc0,dwp_uuid=9c33700c-4c86-11da-89df-0000779e2340.html#axzz1PvXbVSLJ>
Ministry plans blacklist to curb public health reporting
On June 13, Mao Qunan, director of the public information center at China's Health Ministry, announced at a conference in Beijing that the ministry planned to create a blacklist of journalists who "intentionally mislead the public" on China's health issues, including food safety. Mao added that an official news platform would be launched to prevent media outlets from disseminating "wrong information," and urged reporters in China to stop causing public panic and hampering development of the country's food industry. Public health and food safety are areas of growing concern for Chinese citizens, but the authorities have a track record of restricting reporting on incidents that might cause embarrassment to the government-including through regular censorship directives-despite the potential health consequences for the population.
* China Net 6/14/2011 (in Chinese): China's health ministry to blacklist reporters <http://news.xinhuanet.com/politics/2011-06/14/c_121530771.htm>
'Red' song campaign goes nationwide
On June 16, state media reported that 90 senior Chinese officials gathered in Beijing to sing the revolutionary classic "Without the Communist Party, There Would Be No New China" as part of celebrations for the upcoming 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in July. A broader campaign to promote such "red songs" was first launched in Chongqing by municipal party boss Bo Xilai, a rising star in the party who is backed by "new left" scholars and officials and their affiliated pro–Mao Zedong websites. China's vice president, Xi Jinping, was first among those who have suggested expanding Bo's populist "Chongqing model" of governance across the nation. CCP Organization Department chief Li Yuanchao, during a trip to Chongqing in April, joined Bo in singing "Ode to the Motherland" on stage. On June 12, Bo made a star appearance at a red singing show in Beijing performed by kindergarten children (see link below for photographs). Meanwhile, as the CCP anniversary approaches, many popular news portals in China, such as Sohu and Sina, have added prominent red banners on their homepages that hail the party milestone.
* China News Net 6/12/2011 (in Chinese): Bo Xilai attends Chongqing red song debut Beijing <http://big5.xinhuanet.com/gate/big5/news.xinhuanet.com/local/2011-06/12/c_121523233.htm>
* Wall Street Journal 6/17/2011: China leaders laud 'red' campaign <http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303936704576395621087173648.html?mg=com-wsj>
* Sohu homepage: <http://www.sohu.com.cn>
NEW MEDIA / TECHNOLOGY NEWS
Ai Weiwei wins conditional release, friends still missing
Prominent Chinese artist and blogger Ai Weiwei was released on bail on June 22 in Beijing, after three months of detention, with the state-run Xinhua news agency citing "his good attitude in confessing his crimes and a chronic disease." The Chinese government said he had agreed to repay taxes allegedly owed by his company, Beijing Fake Cultural Development, though the artist's family has said that he is neither the chief executive nor the legal representative of the company. Ai remains under police surveillance and is reportedly not allowed to discuss the conditions of his detention. He was detained on April 3 and held incommunicado at an undisclosed location. His wife, Lu Qing, was permitted to visit him once on May 15. Several of Ai's associates have also been detained, and some employees at his art studio, including assistant Wen Tao, accountant Hu Mingfen, and designer Liu Zhenggang, remained missing after his release.
* Guardian 6/23/2011: Ai Weiwei cousin freed but others from his circle still missing <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/23/ai-weiwei-driver-released-china>
* Washington Post 6/23/2011: Ai Weiwei still under investigation, Chinese government says <http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/ai-weiwei-still-under-investigation-chinese-government-says/2011/06/23/AGjwRLhH_story.html>
* Xinhua 6/22/2011: Ai Weiwei released on bail <http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/china/2011-06/22/c_13944511.htm>
Uncensored web zone under construction in Chongqing
On June 17, the Guangzhou-based Southern Weekend newspaper reported that a special firewall-free zone will be built in Chongqing's Liangjiang New Area, a business and technology development district in southwestern China. According to the article, construction of the 10-square-kilometer (6.2-square-mile) special zone has already begun, featuring surveillance cameras and heavy security at entry points. It will be equipped with uncensored internet services catering to foreign enterprises, which will be allowed to acquire telecommunications licenses and digital business permits to operate within the special zone. The original article was removed from the newspaper's website but was quickly circulated on web forums. Chinese netizens have called the project an "internet special administration region," which Chongqing's municipal party boss, Bo Xilai, will likely frame as his personal effort to promote internet freedom. Meanwhile, it would also acknowledge that internet censorship could hamper economic development and signal a new model for resolving that dilemma without granting greater freedom to Chinese citizens.
* Radio Free Asia Mandarin (in Chinese) 6/20/2011: Chongqing to build firewall-free internet special zone <http://www.rfa.org/cantonese/news/china_internet-06202011120058.html>
Popular bribery-reporting websites forced offline
A recent surge in Chinese anticorruption websites, inspired by similar sites in India, has proven short-lived. The sites had allowed users to post anonymous accounts of bribery, implicating those who demanded the payments. Chen Hong, the creator of "www.ibribery.com," which drew 200,000 unique visitors in the two weeks after its launch, decided to shut down the site on the weekend of June 18 after state media reported on the trend. Many administrators of other such sites have reportedly shut them down after receiving warnings from the government, and Chen decided to act before receiving one himself. He is currently applying for a license to reopen his website and working with a team of 30 volunteers to improve it while it remains offline.
* Associated Press 6/22/2011: China restricts popular report-a-bribe websites <http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hF_bUTyXinHxwiiLHkH1nPrutarA?docId=468bb65c6b174d4f8707be2e0803fb27>
Communist Party mouthpiece launches search engine
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mouthpiece People's Daily launched a search engine called Jike on June 20, in an apparent move to increase its influence on China's young internet users. The launch party in Beijing was attended by leading Chinese technology executives including Sina chief executive Charles Chao and Baidu chief scientist William Zhang, who were described as "supporters" of the CCP's latest internet product despite the fact that it would compete with their sites. Jike, which means "instant" in Chinese, is led by retired table-tennis athlete Deng Yaping and former Google China research executive Liu Jun. According to the Wall Street Journal, "Jike is one of the most ambitious government attempts to enter the commercial Internet space." Unlike state-run Xinhua news agency's search engine Panguso, which provides links to government websites, China Media Bulletin's editors have found that Jike shows results from a variety of sources, including Wikipedia.
* Wall Street Journal 6/21/2011: Internet bigs come out for party paper's search engine launch <http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2011/06/21/internet-bigs-come-out-for-party-papers-search-engine-launch>
Online services aim luxury ads at young, wealthy users
Jiepang, China's popular location-based service website, is collaborating with luxury brands Louis Vuitton and Cartier to offer promotional deals via its automatic check-in application, encouraging users to view advertisements and visit stores. The app synchronizes users' activities on their multiple social-networking accounts with sites including Sina Weibo and Renren, and maps locations using Baidu Maps. Meanwhile, Youku, China's biggest video-streaming site, has launched exclusive video channels for well-known luxury brands targeting young and urban professionals. Youku founder and chief executive Victor Koo said in March that his company has an "operating leverage" in China, where foreign competitors such as YouTube are blocked (see CMB No. 18).
* Wall Street Journal 6/20/2011: Luxury brands step up online video marketing effort with Youku <http://www.marketwatch.com/story/luxury-brands-step-up-online-video-marketing-efforts-with-youku-2011-06-20?reflink=MW_news_stmp>
* Penn Olson: 6/19/2011: Going out, checking-in, and being seen: A look at Jiepang <http://www.penn-olson.com/2011/06/19/jiepang-review>
XINJIANG & INNER MONGOLIA
State media hail Xinjiang party boss's low-key U.S. visit
Several U.S. congressional aides have confirmed Xinjiang Communist Party secretary Zhang Chunxian's June 8–13 visit to Washington, DC, which received little press coverage in the United States. Human rights groups say they were not alerted to the visit in advance. Zhang was the first Xinjiang official to visit the United States since an outbreak of ethnic violence in Urumqi in July 2009. A few U.S. senators, including Roger Wicker of Mississippi, were said to have raised human rights issues with Zhang during a presentation on radical Islam at the American Foreign Policy Council. However, state-run Xinjiang Daily reported that Zhang was "widely praised" by the U.S. government for his work in the "stable development of China-U.S. bilateral relations." Alim Seytoff, president of the Washington-based Uyghur American Association, characterized the trip as a propaganda victory for Beijing, noting that Zhang has been accused of overseeing serious human rights abuses against Xinjiang's Uighurs, particularly during and after the July 2009 unrest.
* Radio Free Asia 6/17/2011: Xinjiang party boss in rare US visit <http://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/visit-06172011153307.html>
* Xinjiang Daily 6/16/2011 (in Chinese): Zhang Chunxian looks forward to more business cooperation with the U.S. on energy transfer <http://www.tianshannet.com/energy/content/2011-06/16/content_5896977.htm>
Mongolian student's rap censored amid crackdown
A rap song composed by a Mongolian student was censored on the internet on May 29, almost immediately after it was circulated by netizens on discussion forums and microblogs. The tune was dedicated to Mergen, a Mongolian herdsman who was killed on May 10 by a Han Chinese coal-truck driver while protesting the frequent traffic and mining operations on grasslands in West Ujimqin Banner. The song's lyrics criticize Beijing over its internet censorship and repression of recent protests sparked by Mergen's death. The student was subsequently summoned by police in Tongliao City and warned to stay off the internet. Radio Free Asia reported on June 17 that a number of Mongolian activists and college instructors have been detained or gone missing after expressing support for the protests online or disseminating information about them via text message.
* Radio Free Asia 6/17/2011: Mongolian rapper warned <http://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/rap-06172011174020.html>
* Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center 6/13/2011: Rap song dedicated to Mergen banned <http://www.smhric.org/news_390.htm>
U.S. issues warning on China-made software
On June 16, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a warning on vulnerabilities within software programs produced by Beijing-based Sunway ForceControl. The security holes, identified by researcher Dillon Beresford at Texas-based NSS Labs, enable hackers to remotely control critical industrial systems or issue denial-of-service attacks. Though mostly deployed in China, Sunway's products are used by telecommunications, chemical, defense, and energy firms in the United States, Europe, Asia, and Africa for controlling and monitoring industrial plants and equipment. The warning came in the wake of a series of reports on large-scale hacking or cyberespionage attacks that were allegedly launched from within China.
* Venture Beat 6/17/2011: U.S. warns of dangerous security flaws in Chinese software <http://venturebeat.com/2011/06/17/u-s-warns-of-dangerous-security-flaws-in-chinese-software>
* ICS-CERT Advisory 6/16/2011: Heap overflow vulnerabilities in Sunway ForceControl and pNetPower <http://www.us-cert.gov/control_systems/pdf/ICSA-11-167-01.pdf>
Taiwan reverses move to drop Falun Gong–linked TV station
On June 20, Taiwan's Chunghwa Telecom (CHT), a partly government-owned telecommunications company, announced that it would renew its contract to carry the broadcasts of Falun Gong–affiliated New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV) when a new CHT satellite takes over in August. CHT, citing technical obstacles, had told NTDTV in April that it would be unable to use the new satellite to broadcast uncensored news to China. However, critics of the decision speculated that CHT was simply trying to appease Beijing, as it has joint ventures with China's state-owned China Telecom Corporation. Following international pressure, including letters to the Taiwanese government from both Republican and Democratic members of the U.S. Congress, CHT agreed to renew the contract. Paris-based media rights group Reporters Without Borders applauded the decision, adding that it would continue monitoring the situation until a formal agreement is signed.
* Reporters Without Borders 6/20/2011: Chunghwa Telecom promises to continue broadcasting New Tang Dynasty Asia Pacific <http://en.rsf.org/taiwan-taiwanese-tv-satellite-operator-24-05-2011,40343.html>
* Agence France-Presse 6/19/2011: US lawmakers press Taiwan on Falungong-linked TV <http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5j6nUNTgRAfRaUKFEtgbXiQU4cvrw?docId=CNG.29a3ca091af7b19d5693948e209c9da2.661>
* Taipei Times 6/21/2011: NTD TV, Chunghwa reach agreement <http://www.taipeitimes.net/News/front/archives/2011/06/21/2003506297>
China's state-run print media aim for global reach
Li Dongdong, who as vice president of China's General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) controls more than 2,000 newspapers, 10,000 magazines, and 300,000 book titles in the country, recently told the Sydney Morning Herald that her agency intended to make China a strong global publishing power in the next 10 years. The government has set aside a budget of 45 billion yuan ($6.9 billion) for its overseas media presence, and the GAPP plans to restructure the state-run print outlets under its supervision and list them on stock exchanges. However, to date such outlets have relied heavily on state funding, and they may have difficulty competing for market share. Li visited the Sydney Morning Herald's headquarters in early June, seeking joint efforts to project China's soft power abroad. This global media strategy was first launched in 2008 by Li's boss, Li Changchun, the Chinese Communist Party propaganda chief and a Politburo Standing Committee member, who is now directing China's "red" campaign to glorify the party's upcoming 90th anniversary.
* Sydney Morning Herald 6/18/2011: Chinese publishers ready to tap global market <http://www.smh.com.au/world/chinese-publishers-ready-to-tap-global-market-20110617-1g7yo.html#ixzz1PvBPTsx9>
Artist and cultural organization show support for Ai Weiwei
On June 29, the New York–based Asia Society Museum will open an exhibition of 277 photographs selected by Chinese artist and blogger, Ai Weiwei, who spent three months in detention before being released on bail by authorities in Beijing on June 22. The photographs were taken by Ai during his stay in New York City from 1983 to 1993, and they feature prominent colleagues including artist Xu Bing, filmmaker Chen Kaige, and composer Tan Dun. The museum's director, Melissa Chiu, said the exhibition will "give voice" to Ai, who has been silenced since his detention in April. Separately, the British-based sculptor Anish Kapoor, citing his opposition to the Chinese government's treatment of Ai, has canceled plans to display his work at the National Museum of China as part of the British Council's "UK Now" cultural festival in Beijing next year.
* New York Times 6/20/2011: Asia Society plans exhibition of Ai Weiwei New York photos <http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/20/asia-society-plans-exhibition-of-ai-weiwei-new-york-photos/?scp=2&sq=asia%20society&st=cse>
* Art Newspaper 6/14/2011: Anish Kapoor rejects China show in support of Ai Weiwei < http://www.theartnewspaper.com/articles/Anish-Kapoor-rejects-China-show-in-support-of-Ai-Weiwei/23991>