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How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press



JANUARY 29, 2005
Posted: March 28, 2005

Zhang Lin, Freelance
IMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION

Zhang, a political essayist who wrote regularly for overseas online news sites, was detained on his return to Anhui Province after traveling to Beijing to mourn the death of Zhao Ziyang, the ousted general secretary of the Communist Party.

Scheduled for release after 15 days of administrative detention, Zhang was instead put in "criminal detention" on suspicion of "endangering state security." The allegations were linked to essays by Zhang that called for political reform and democracy in China. On March 19, 2005, Zhang's wife Fang Caofang received notice that he had been formally arrested on allegations of inciting subversion.

Authorities did not specify the articles that led to Zhang's arrest, his wife told CPJ. Guo Guoting, who had planned on acting as his defense lawyer, was barred from visiting Zhang last month. In February, authorities in Shanghai suspended Guo's license to practice law for a year, leaving Zhang without legal counsel.

Zhang is also a political activist who has spent eight years in prison and labor camp since 1989, according to Boxun News, a U.S.-based Chinese-language on-line newspaper to which Zhang was a regular contributor.


MARCH 15, 2005
Posted: May 4, 2005

Liu Hongbin, freelance
HARASSED

Liu, a poet and freelance radio journalist who lives in exile in the United Kingdom, was banned from returning to China to visit his mother, who had fallen seriously ill.

Liu, who has been in exile since 1989, learned that a ban on his return to China was renewed on March 15, 2005. He had been harassed the prior fall, when he sought to visit his mother. In October 2004, Liu and his 3-year-old daughter were detained upon arrival in Beijing. He and his daughter were held in a detention center for three hours before being transferred to a hotel, where they were held incommunicado overnight before being allowed to continue on their journey to visit his mother in the city of Qingdao. Liu's daughter was distraught and suffered insect bites on her face and legs.

Liu's writings became well known during the pro-democracy demonstrations at Tiananmen Square. As well as being a prominent poet and literary figure, Liu has worked as a journalist for the Chinese service of Radio France International since 2000. He has also made freelance contributions to independent magazines in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the United States.

In articles and in interviews that have appeared in the Western media, Liu has spoken out for democratic reform in China.

APRIL 26, 2005
Posted: May 3, 2005

Zheng Yichun, freelance
LEGAL ACTION, IMPRISONED

Zheng was tried in Yingkou Intermediate Court on charges of inciting subversion. A prolific Internet writer and poet, he had been imprisoned since December 3 after writing articles critical of the Communist Party and Chinese government policy.

Zheng's trial lasted less than three hours and was attended by high-level authorities of northeast China's Liaoning Province, his brother Zheng Xiaochun told CPJ. Prosecutors cited 63 articles written by the journalist, and listed the titles of several essays in which he called for political reform, increased capitalism in China, and an end to the practice of imprisoning writers.

Zheng Yichun's defense lawyer Li Mingchang entered a guilty plea but argued that his client's writings were protected under Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution, which guarantees freedom of the press. Li said that this constitutional protection should outweigh charges of subversion brought under Article 105 of Chinese criminal law. He asked the court to consider the light sentence given last summer to Du Daobin, another Internet journalist who was charged with inciting subversion.

"I am an independent intellectual and my freedom is protected under the Chinese constitution," Zheng Yichun told the court, according to his brother. "If I committed a crime, I was not conscious of it. ... I am a patriot. ... I hope that the government will give me a chance."

No media attended today's trial, and it is unclear when a verdict would be reached. Judges in China are usually Communist Party members who answer to their superiors within the government, according to legal analysts.

Members of Zheng's family, who have been barred from visiting him since his imprisonment, attended the trial and were alarmed at a visible decline in the writer's health. Zeng, 48, suffers from diabetes. "Today when we saw him, he had become very skinny," the writer's brother told CPJ.

Zheng was a regular contributor to overseas online news Web sites that are blocked in China. With more than 40 journalists imprisoned at the end of 2004, China was the leading jailer of journalists for the sixth consecutive year.


APRIL 30, 2005
Posted: May 4, 2005

Shi Tao, Dangdai Shang Bao
LEGAL ACTION, IMPRISONED

Shi was sentenced to 10 years in prison on April 30 after being convicted in March of "illegally providing state secrets to foreigners" in a closed trial in the Intermediate People's Court of Changsha in central China's Hunan Province.

Shi is a former reporter at Dangdai Shang Bao (Contemporary Trade News), a magazine based in Changsha. Officials from the Changsha security bureau detained Shi near his home in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, on November 24, 2004. Authorities confiscated his computer and other documents and warned his family to stay quiet about the matter.

On December 14, 2004, authorities issued a formal arrest order charging Shi with "leaking state secrets."

Defense lawyer Tong Wenzhong was never granted access to the contents of the "state secrets" that Shi was accused of leaking, said Shi Hua, the journalist's brother. Tong was told only the title of the material, and its government designation as "secret." Nevertheless, Tong entered a guilty plea on Shi's behalf on March 11.

The government-run Xinhua News Agency reported that Shi had been found guilty of posting online his notes regarding a government document read to the Dangdai Shang Bao editorial board in April 2004. Xinhua reported that prosecutors told the court that the contents were classified, and that Shi's notes had been picked up by several overseas Web sites.

Sources have told CPJ that the document was a Central Propaganda Department directive issued to editors on April 20, 2004, the contents of which are widely available in Chinese-language news Web sites based outside of China. The document's summary lists particular areas of concern to the government. It warns of the return of overseas dissidents to China to mark the 15th anniversary of the military crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy demonstrations on June 4, 1989.

Chinese journalists are not free to report independently on the events of the spring of 1989. Coverage of this and other politically sensitive issues is circumscribed by routine directives issued by the Central Propaganda Department, which are made available only to news editors.

Shortly before Shi's trial, Guo Guoting, who was originally set to act as Shi's defense lawyer, received notice that his license to practice law had been suspended. Guo told CPJ at the time that he believed the punitive action was related to the lawyer's defense of controversial freedom of expression cases like Shi's. He had intended to argue that while Shi has admitted to posting the material from the April 2004 editorial meeting online, he was not guilty because the material should not have been classified as a state secret.

Chinese laws regarding state secrets are vague and broadly worded, and have been used in the past to silence reporting on sensitive issues.

MAY 3, 2005
Posted: May 3, 2005

Cheng Yizhong, Nanfang Dushi Bao and Nanfang Tiyu
HARASSED

Chinese authorities refused to allow Cheng to receive a United Nations press freedom award on May 3. Cheng, who was imprisoned for five months in 2004 after his aggressive investigative journalism angered local officials, was ordered not to attend a ceremony honoring him in Dakar, Senegal, according to the South China Morning Post.

The international jury that named Cheng the 2005 recipient of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize said that he "represents Chinese journalism at its best. He speaks out for the weak and checks the strong," according to a UN press release. The $25,000 prize is given each year, at locations around the world, to individuals and organizations demonstrating courage in defending freedom of expression.

Cheng was the editor-in-chief of the Guangzhou-based Nanfang Dushi Bao (Southern Metropolis Daily) in March 2003 when it exposed the beating death in detention of young graphic designer Sun Zhigang. Public outcry over his death led to the arrest of several local government and police officials, and prompted authorities to change the laws regarding the detention of migrants.

In an apparent act of retaliation, authorities imprisoned two of Cheng's colleagues on corruption charges. The newspaper's general manager Yu Huafeng and former editor Li Minying remain in prison, and are serving sentences of eight and six years, respectively.

Cheng himself was imprisoned on March 19, 2004 and remained in detention without charge until his release on August 30, 2004. The journalist was later stripped of his Communist Party membership, making it difficult for him to practice his profession. Cheng now holds a management position at Nanfang Tiyu (Southern Sports), a sister publication to Nanfang Dushi Bao.

"As for not being able to go to Dakar, I feel very regretful and apologetic," Cheng said in a statement posted on the Internet, according to the South China Morning Post. He called on journalists in China to "speak the truth."

"There is fear and lies everywhere and we are getting further and further from the truth," said Cheng in the statement, according to the news report. "If we allow ourselves to get used to it, we will be harming ourselves."

Cheng's online statement, as reported by the Hong Kong daily South China Morning Post, was unavailable on China-based Web sites on Monday and may have been censored by authorities there.

MAY 31, 2005

Posted: June 7, 2005

Ching Cheong, Straits Times
IMPRISONED

The Chinese Foreign Ministry revealed that it had detained senior Hong Kong-based journalist on suspicion of espionage.

In a statement released to reporters and published in international news reports, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced that it had been holding Ching since April 22 and that the journalist was now in Bejing. The statement also said that Ching has "admitted that in recent years he has been following the instructions of overseas intelligence organizations and has undertaken intelligence collecting activities."

The Foreign Ministry provided no evidence for the allegation and did not clarify for which country the journalist was suspected of spying.

Ching, the chief China correspondent for the Singapore daily, was detained in Guangzhou. He had planned to meet an unknown source who had agreed to provide him with an unfinished book manuscript of interviews with former Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang, according to Ching's wife Mary Lau.

A week before the Foreign Ministry's annoucement, after learning privately from a mainland government official that her husband would be charged with "stealing core state secrets," Lau decided to go public with the news of her husband's detention, according to the Washington Post. Though Lau and the Straits Times had known since April that Ching was detained, they were warned by authorities not to report the detention, and stayed silent in an effort to obtain his release through diplomatic means, the Post reported.

Lau spoke to her husband several times since he was detained, but said that she has not yet received an official letter informing her of the government's allegations. She believes that Ching's detention was related to his investigations into Zhao, according to local and international reports.

Zhao, who died in January, was ousted from the Communist Party after opposing the government's use of force against pro-democracy demonstrators at Tiananmen Square in 1989. In 2004, Ching was the first reporter to obtain the memoir of Zong Fengming, a retired official and associate of Zhao Ziyang, in which he referred to his extensive interviews with the deposed leader, according to the Washington Post. Zong told the Post that authorities had pressured him not to publish a book of his interviews with Zhao.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan denied that Ching's detention was related to his efforts to gain access to the interviews conducted by Zong. "I can tell you plainly that Ching's case is not connected to Zhao Ziyang at all . . . The key thing is that Ching himself admitted to his illegal activities," said Kong, according to Reuters.

The Straits Times responded to the Foreign Ministry's allegation, saying, "We are shocked by this new accusation. As we have stated in our press statements, we have no cause to doubt that in all the years that Ching Cheong has worked with us, he has conducted himself with the utmost professionalism."

"China has a terrible record of using national security laws to punish journalists for reporting politically sensitive material," said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. "We are disturbed by the detention of our colleague Ching without evidence of wrongdoing, and call for his immediate release."

Ching has been a reporter for the Singapore daily since 1996. He was formerly a reporter for Wen Wei Po, a Hong Kong newspaper with links to the Communist Party. In 1989, he handed in his resignation along with 40 colleagues to protest the government's military crackdown at Tiananmen Square, according to the Post.

Ching, who holds a British overseas national passport and is a legal resident of Singapore, was the second foreign newspaper journalist to be detained within a year—the first being New York Times researcher Zhao Yan. China was the world's leading jailer of journalists for the sixth consecutive year in 2004. Most of the forty-two journalists imprisoned at the year's end were held under national security or subversion laws.


JULY 2, 2005

Posted: July 22, 2005

Wong Yuk-man, Commercial Radio
HARASSED

Hong Kong's Commercial Radio terminated the contract of popular radio host Wong Yuk-man. Local supporters say that political pressure played a part in the decision to fire the host, known for his outspoken criticism of local pro-Beijing politicians.

Wong returned to hosting a radio show at Commercial Radio in October 2004 after he quit his show "Close Encounters of a Political Kind" in May 2004, citing concerns for his safety after unidentified assailants attacked him and vandalized his noodle shop. Wong told reporters later that while hosting "Close Encounters of a Political Kind," he had refused money offered to him by pro-Beijing businessmen to go off the air.

Within weeks of Wong's leaving the station last May, two other radio hosts of the controversial "Teacup in a Storm" program also left their positions, citing political pressure. That show was taken off the air.

While "Close Encounters of a Political Kind" had aired five times a week, Wong's new show aired only on Saturdays. The station's general manager Rita Chan told local reporters that Wong's termination was due to a contractual dispute arising from the host's expectation that he would return to a five-day slot.

Wong says the station had previously agreed to that request, and believes that his criticism of the station's coverage of the election of Donald Tsang played a role in his termination.

Thousands of Wong's supporters, including former "Teacup in a Storm" radio host and current legislator Albert Cheng King-hon, demonstrated for the right of free speech at a candlelight vigil in central Hong Kong on July 16.


JUNE 30, 2005

Posted: July 28, 2005

Li Jianping, freelancer
IMPRISIONED

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the imprisonment of Internet journalist Li Jianping on suspicion of defamation.

Authorities detained Li on May 27 in Zibo, a city in northeastern China's Shandong Province, and formally arrested him for defamation on June 30, according to ChinaEForum, a U.S.-based dissident news forum. Charges had not been filed.

Local police had summoned the journalist to the police station days before detaining him, Li's wife told the editors of ChinaEForum. She also said that government-employed Internet-control personnel had searched his computer.

Li, 39, wrote frequently for overseas news Web sites banned in China, such as Boxun News, Epoch Times, China Democracy and ChinaEWeekly. Some of his articles directly criticized Chinese Communist Party leadership, including former and current Chinese presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. Just days before his detention, Li wrote a strongly critical analysis of Hu Jintao's policy toward Taiwan, posted on ChinaEWeekly on May 17. It was unclear which of his articles led to his detention.


SEPTEMBER 17, 2005
Posted October 11, 2005

Henan Shang Bao
CENSORED

Henan Shang Bao (Henan Business News) was suspended for a month from September 17 for "inaccurate reporting" on orders of the General Administration of Press and Publications and the Central Propaganda Department, according to the Singapore-based Chinese-language daily Lianhe Zaobao. A reporter and an editor were suspended, and prominent Henan journalist Ma Yunlong, a news advisor to the daily, was asked to resign, according to news reports. The Chinese daily reported in August on the cover-up of a coal mining accident in the central city of Ruzhou

Henan Shang Bao detailed attempts by officials to suppress news of a flood in the mine in July. Local authorities paid a total of RMB 200,000 (US $24,715) in hush money to hundreds of real and bogus reporters who arrived in Ruzhou, the paper's reporter Fan Youfeng wrote. Fan, who had expected to be offered hush money, said that he accepted a bribe of RMB 1000 which he turned over to his office. Fan wrote that people posing as reporters turned up as news of the accident spread, believing that officials had paid hush money in the past. Fan's report was picked up by newspapers and online bulletin boards.

" The story is true; I have the interviews on tape. But I have been questioned by the government. It is very sensitive. I hope you understand I cannot say any more to you," Fan said when contacted by Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, according to a September 14 report.

Mining accidents kill thousands of workers in China each year, and often go unreported because of intimidation or bribes. In 2003, government-run Xinhua news agency reported that 11 of its reporters had been found guilty of accepting large bribes in the cover-up of a gold mine explosion that killed 46 people in Shanxi province the previous year.


SEPTEMBER 25 2005
October 17, 2005

All journalists
CENSORED

China's State Council and the Ministry of Information Industry issued severe restrictions for online news. Under the new regulations, any individual or organization that posts news or commentary must first be approved by the State Council Information Office. Bulletin board systems (BBS), a widely used medium for posting news and independent commentary, and systems sending information via cell phone are among the services that must get government approval.

The rules require that major search engines and news portals post commentary only from news organizations under direct government control. Regulations also reiterate broad categories of news forbidden online, including anything that "harms national security" or "public interest." The rules add two new categories: content that could incite illegal protests or gatherings, and information about "illegal" non-governmental organizations.

SEPTEMBER 30, 2005
Posted October 17, 2005

Yannan
CENSORED

The Beijing-based Yannan bulletin board system, a popular Web forum, was closed after providing coverage and debate on a turbulent recall campaign in a village in Guangdong province.

Yannan posted a September 30 announcement stating that it would be closed until further notice for "cleanup and rectification." It did not elaborate. Nine days before, the Web site removed postings on the political standoff in the village of Taishi, as well as separate discussions of murders committed by a Ningxia migrant worker, according to international news reports.

The action comes less than a week after government agencies announced new rules restricting Internet news and online content.

Readership had soared as Yannan provided a forum for public debate on the efforts of Taishi villagers to recall the elected village committee head, Chen Jinsheng, whom they accused of corruption, according to China Information Center, a U.S.-based organization. The case captivated academics, journalists, and legal scholars who saw it as a test of the government's commitment to its experiments in small-scale democracy. The recall efforts pitted villagers against local officials and police, who arrested dozens of protesters, many of whom are elderly, according to news reports.

The administrators of bulletin board, or BBS, forums in China are responsible for their content. In addition, new Internet regulations classify bulletin boards carrying current events as news organizations and make them subject to State Council approval and strict guidelines. New rules also ban any online content that could incite "illegal protests" or gatherings.

OCTOBER 7, 2005
Posted October 18, 2005

Leu Siew Ying, South China Morning Post
Abel Segretin, Radio France Internationale
ATTACKED
Benjamin Joffe-Walt, Guardian
HARASSED

Leu and Segretin were struck and threatened by unidentified men and then detained by police as they tried to enter the village of Taishi in the southern Guangdong province. They had intended to investigate why residents had abandoned their attempts to recall an elected village committee chief whom they had accused of corruption.

"A few men in red armbands marked 'security' forced us off our motorbikes," wrote Leu. "Straight away, another 20 people closed in on us—some wearing army camouflage—and asked for our identity papers."

A well-dressed man said the mob was composed of "villagers," Leu wrote. He said that if the reporters did not show their identification, he would leave and would not control the others, according to her account. The man called the police while others grabbed Segretin and punched him in the waist, Leu wrote. Another man hit Leu across the head so that she fell to the ground.

Segretin reported that police then arrived and took the two journalists into custody. Police refused to record their complaints, and local propaganda department employees were brought in to give the two reporters the official version of events, saying that the villagers had spontaneously abandoned their recall efforts, according to Segretin's report.

Later that day, an activist accompanying a reporter for the London daily The Guardian was dragged from a taxi and badly beaten by a mob. Hubei province delegate Lu Banglie, who had been advising Taishi villagers, passed out from injuries received when he was assaulted by a group of men who spotted him in the taxi with Guardian reporter Benjamin Joffe-Walt. After he was attacked, he was driven by local officials back to Hubei, according to an interview in Radio Free Asia (RFA). Doctors later diagnosed him with head and internal injuries, and Lu said that he has had trouble eating, according to RFA.

After witnessing the beating, Joffe-Walt was interrogated by local propaganda officials.

Villagers have accused local authorities of launching a campaign of intimidation to pressure them into dropping the recall campaign, according to international news reports. Dozens of residents and activists have been arrested since protests calling for a recall election began in July. The events have been watched closely as a test case of China's grassroots democracy experiments.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan responded to questions about the harassment of Leu and Segretin by accusing the journalists of disobeying rules on foreign reporting. Those rules reportedly include obtaining prior government approval for coverage.

"We express regret over these journalists repeatedly breaching relevant rules to carry out such reporting activities, especially when some media are always criticizing China for the lack of laws," said Kong, according to Agence France-Presse. "But where there are laws, they lead the way in not abiding by them."

It was the second time that Leu, who has written several investigative reports from Taishi, was harassed and detained by police. In September, when Leu was covering the villagers' hunger strike, the windows of her taxi were smashed and she was physically lifted into a van and interrogated by local police, she told CPJ. Leu said that she believed her foreign citizenship saved her from further harm. Leu is Malaysian.

NOVEMBER 7, 2005
POSTED: December 2, 2005

Cheung Kin-bao, Ming Pao
ATTACKED

A parcel bomb exploded in the offices of the Hong Kong daily Ming Pao, injuring two people. A gift box, which was hand delivered to the office of Chief Editor Cheung Kin-bao, exploded when Cheung's secretary opened it, The Standard reported. She was hospitalized with facial injuries and was reported to be in a stable condition. A second employee was taken to the hospital suffering from smoke inhalation, and was later released.

An unsigned letter with the package referred to an unnamed article in the newspaper from October 2005 and demanded a 30 million HK dollar (US$3.8 million) donation to a local charity. Cheung told reporters that he did not know the reason for the bombing. Ming Pao, a respected independent Chinese-language daily, had not been threatened before the attack, Cheung said. Hong Kong's security chief Ambrose Lee said that the authorities would do everything they could to protect the free press and prevent such attacks, which are rare in Hong Kong.


DECEMBER 28, 2005
Posted January 4, 2006

Yang Bin, Beijing News
Sun Xuedong, Beijing News
Li Duoyu, Beijing News
HARASSED

The Propaganda Department removed Yang from his post as chief editor after the daily Beijing News reported aggressively on rural protests and other sensitive topics, according to international news reports. The newspaper broke the story of a violent crackdown on farmers protesting government appropriation of land in the village of Shengyou, 100 miles southwest of the capital Beijing. Online and deputy editors Sun Xuedong and Li Duoyu were also fired, according to the International Herald Tribune. Editors from the conservative parent newspaper Guangming Daily will replace the journalists.

Dozens of Beijing News editors and reporters walked out in protest of the removal of Yang on December 29, refusing to file reports.

The Propaganda Department has control over the hiring and firing of editors in the country's newspapers. Journalists are often dismissed, transferred, or demoted in retribution for reporting that embarrasses the government or defies Propaganda Department instructions on coverage.