His Excellency Jiang Zemin
President, People's Republic of China
C/o Embassy of the People's Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20008
Via facsimile: (202) 588-0032
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the recent detention and deportation of Canadian journalist Jiang Xueqin, who was filming labor unrest in northeastern China. We call for an immediate easing of restrictions on journalists trying to cover the protests, which are the largest to hit China since the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations.
On June 3, authorities in Daqing, Heilongjiang Province, detained Jiang while he was filming a documentary about labor unrest for the U.S.-based Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), according to news reports. On June 5, Jiang flew to Canada after being deported from China.
Jiang, a Chinese-born Canadian citizen, is a free-lance reporter who has written for The Nation, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Far Eastern Economic Review. He also contributed to a June 17 cover story in Time magazine's Asia edition on the unemployment problem in China.
Since March, tens of thousands of unemployed workers in Daqing have staged massive protests against lay-offs and the government's failure to deliver welfare benefits. Your Excellency's government has banned domestic and foreign reporters from covering the unrest, which has also broken out sporadically during the last three months in several other Chinese cities.
A police official in Daqing told Agence France-Presse that Jiang "made illegal video recordings and violated the law." However, authorities did not clarify which law Jiang could have violated and did not file formal charges against him before his deportation.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide, CPJ is deeply concerned about the Chinese government's attempts to stifle reporting on a major story of national and international importance.
Allowing journalists to report on social unrest enables them to facilitate a public dialogue that leads to more constructive and peaceful solutions. In the current circumstances, it is incumbent that the Chinese government tolerates the work of the press and ensures that journalists are free to report without fear of arrest or harassment.
We respectfully urge Your Excellency to take steps to ensure that both Chinese and foreign journalists are able to exercise their right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by the Chinese constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which China has signed.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We await your response.