News / Asia

China Expands Crackdown on Free Expression

Protester holds mask of Chinese President Xi Jinping during demonstration for Chinese journalist Gao Yu, Hong Kong publisher Yao Wentian, and Chinese lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, Chinese liaison office, Hong Kong, May 11, 2014.
Protester holds mask of Chinese President Xi Jinping during demonstration for Chinese journalist Gao Yu, Hong Kong publisher Yao Wentian, and Chinese lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, Chinese liaison office, Hong Kong, May 11, 2014.
William Ide
— China's Communist Party crackdown on dissent and freedom of expression appears to be intensifying.

Party officials this week issued several rulings against civil rights activists and announced new regulations that bar reporters from writing critical news stories without approval.

Draft rules that would ban lawyers from posting comments about cases online have also surfaced.

Three activists were sentenced to prison Thursday after calling on government officials to disclose their wealth to the public — two of them who were members of the loosely organized New Citizens Movement were given six-and-a-half years. The sentencing follows last week's announcement that prominent activist and lawyer Pu Zhiqiang would be formally charged with causing a disturbance and obtaining illegal access to personal information.

Pu's charges come more than a month after he was detained for participating in a private gathering to plan events marking the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests.

Criticism forbidden

China's media watchdog issued a notice that reporters were forbidden from writing critical stories without first receiving approval, including posting them online on other websites or social media. Authorities say the moves are meant to address the worsening problem of reporters extorting money for stories.

And while it stopped short of criticizing the move, even the state-run Global Times noted the regulations were sparking a "discussion" over authorities increased control of the media.

Li Datong, a former reporter who was dismissed from his job with a state-run media organization because of his opinions, says he does not see much new in the regulations, given the control authorities already enjoy over the media.

He does, however, note that the move is part of a worrying leftist trend.

"It all reminds me of the nonsensical accusations of the Cultural Revolution," he said, explaining that party publications have recently criticized Zhang Yimou's film Coming Home, and how a top official recently accused a top party research group, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, of being infiltrated by Western forces.

Directives such as the one barring critical journalism, he added, may not necessarily come from the highest party echelons, but are more a reflection of the current environment and how each individual department — in the this instances, Beijing's State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television — is looking for ways to conform and maintain stability by taking more extreme measures.

Just as reporters are seeing increased restrictions, the All China Lawyers Association, a government-run bar association, has recently drafted regulations that could ban lawyers from using the media or the Internet to draw attention to their cases.

"We have interpreted that as kind of a gag order," said William Nee, a Hong Kong-based researcher for Amnesty International. "Lawyers often use social media [such as] Weibo, which is kind of the Twitter or Facebook-like service, and they use it to a great effect in trying to gather public support in their cases and make their cases online for their clients. And this has proven to be fairly effective."

According top Lin Chong-Pin, a Taiwan-based China analyst, the crackdown on dissent is part of President Xi Jinping's effort to shield himself from criticism as he promotes ambitious reforms that impact the vested interests of those inside and outside of government.

Lin argues that Xi is trying to avoid the mistakes of former top Chinese official Hu Yaobang, a man Xi considers his spiritual godfather. Hu's death in the spring of 1989 was the trigger for the massive protests in Tiananmen Square.

"Xi Jinping is determined not to make the same mistakes made by Hu Yaobang," he said. "That's what he is doing. So you'll notice not only the growing assertiveness along the coast of China with its neighbors. But also domestically arresting dissidents. That is also a toughness to sort of protect himself against possible criticism from conservatives."

Amnesty International's Nee says it is hard to say what Xi's endgame might be.

"In some ways I think what they want to do is try to make progress in the country and take up many of the issues that people in civil society like the New Citizens Movement are calling for, but doing it on their own terms and kind of monopolize the political process," said Nee. "So in some ways they're reacting and absorbing some of the things people in civil society are saying, and at the same time they are cracking down on them and not allowing them to participate."

In the long run, he adds, that is not only a violation of human rights, but a risky political strategy.

You May Like

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid