News / Asia

Reporter's Notebook: China Turns Up Heat on Journalists in Tiananmen Square

Armed Chinese police stand guard on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, June 3, 2014.
Armed Chinese police stand guard on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, June 3, 2014.
William Ide
— Working as a journalist under China’s strict media laws can be incredibly frustrating, especially during what authorities call "sensitive periods." But during this year's anniversary of the government's bloody crackdown on student protesters in Tiananmen Square, it has felt as if we were not just in a "sensitive period" but one that is "hypersensitive."

Each year, authorities warn activists and families of those killed in the crackdown against speaking with the media. Some are even kept under virtual house arrest.

This year, rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang and several others were detained just for holding a private discussion about what happened a quarter of a century ago. Pu has been charged with picking quarrels, like many others who dare to discuss the topic.

Amnesty International says scores have been placed under house arrest, detained or questioned by police in recent weeks.

Threats, harrassment
 
Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
x
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Authorities have also turned up the heat on journalists, warning some of serious consequences in a bid to persuade them to not report on Tiananmen.

Many news agencies in Beijing have been warned not to go to Tiananmen Square to do reporting and some journalists have even been harassed on streets far away from the square while trying to have basic conversations about Tiananmen and June 4, 1989.
 
Authorities say the incident is too sensitive and have tried to block news coverage by harassing journalists and those they would seek to interview.

In their meetings with journalists, authorities have reminded reporters that their local news assistants - who, in many cases, blend in with crowds here much better than some foreign correspondents - cannot do reporting work on their own. And although Chinese law says that reporters can interview anyone who accepts a request, authorities are now saying certain places such as Tiananmen Square require special permission as well.
 
Micromanagement

I have been working in China for a little less than two years and have had some encounters with authorities. But the micromanagement around the Tiananmen anniversary in recent weeks makes it hard not to wonder why - despite all of China's other major advances - the government still responds with a knee-jerk reaction in silencing dissenting views. Why are its leaders apparently so fearful of their own citizens?

There are definitely growing threats that Chinese authorities face.

Since October of last year, security has been steadily increasing in Beijing following what authorities called a terrorist attack on Tiananmen Square. At the intersection near where I live and work, it has become all too common to see nighttime roadside checks of license plates for vehicles heading in the direction of Tiananmen Square.

That intensity has grown following the brutal and tragic knife attack at Kunming railway station, where black-clad attackers killed 29 and wounded more than 140 people in March, and two other deadly attacks in Xinjiang. The government has blamed those attacks on separatist militants.
 
  • A man stands alone to block a line of tanks heading east on Beijing's Cangan Blvd. in Tiananmen Square, June 5, 1989.
  • The bodies of dead civilians lie among mangled bicycles near Beijing's Tiananmen Square, June 4, 1989.
  • A blood-covered protester holds a Chinese soldier's helmet following violent clashes with military forces during pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, June 4, 1989.
  • Pro-democracy demonstrators pitch tents in Beijing's Tiananmen Square before their protests were crushed by the People's Liberation Army on June 3, 1989.
  • A man tries to pull a Chinese soldier away from his comrades as thousands of Beijing citizens turned out to block thousands of troops on their way towards Tiananmen Square, June 3, 1989.
  • A military helicopter drops leaflets above Tiananmen Square, May 22, 1989.
  • Beijing University students wave fists and flags as Chinese military helicopters fly over Tiananmen Square, May 21, 1989.
  • Communist Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang speaks with fasting university students in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, May 19, 1989.
  • Hundreds of thousands of people fill Tiananmen Square in Beijing, May 17, 1989.
  • Beijing University students relax in Tiananmen Square as their hunger strike for democracy begins a fourth day, May 16, 1989.
  • Students shout after breaking through a police blockade during a pro-democracy march to Tiananmen Square, Beijing, May 4 1989.
  • Student demonstrators scuffle with police as they try to break the guard line to march to Tiananmen Square in Beijing, April 27, 1989.
  • Chinese students link arms in solidarity at dawn in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, April 22, 1989.
  • A student leader tries in vain to settle down a crowd of Beijing University students who converged on the Chinese Communist Party headquarters after demonstrating at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, April 19, 1989.

Reflections

On the afternoon of June 3, at about the same time that tensions were starting to build 25 years ago between the students and troops brought into Beijing to clear the square, I took a ride on my bike down Changan Avenue, the wide Beijing throughway that goes straight to Tiananmen Square.
 
At every intersection, and along the way in between there were police in every direction. Security was particularly tight around nearby entrances to the city's expansive subway. The entrance to the Forbidden City teemed with tourists, and lines backed up at each end where intensive security checks were carried out.

Some people mingled about in Tiananmen Square, but there were more police and concession sales owners than visitors. As I drove back to the office, I stopped at an intersection and glanced up at the Beijing Hotel where the iconic photo of Tank Man was shot.

Sitting there with the cars and bikes racing by and the sun scorching down, it was hard to imagine what that moment must have been like, with the rumble of tanks and one man standing in their way.
 
Several blocks away at a daily press briefing, spokesman Hong Lei once again laid out the government's position on Tiananmen, stating that the Chinese government reached a conclusion about the political turmoil long ago. He also had this to say about dissidents in China.
 
"In China, there are only law breakers -- there are no so-called dissidents."
 

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Shaw from: Mauritius
June 03, 2014 12:39 PM
Every country had its own past and history, all of us shall confront and solve all those problemes, escaping can only make others take advantage of its past

In Response

by: Show from: Malicious
June 03, 2014 5:41 PM
Absolutely true. And the gangsters in the chinese politburo are taking advantage of its heinous past. They must cut and cut cleanly.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid