News / Asia

Tiananmen Crackdown Casts Long Shadow Over China’s Press

Tiananmen Crackdown Casts Long Shadow Over China’s Pressi
X
Rebecca Valli
May 29, 2014 2:36 PM
It has been 25 years since the Tiananmen crackdown. And while the memory of the government's bloody crackdown on protesters is alive in the minds of many, the anniversary is likely to go unnoticed in Chinese media. The media blackout is a strong reminder of how many years after the events of the spring of 1989, China's leaders have yet to respond to one of the protesters' key demands - the call for press freedom. Rebecca Valli reports from Hong Kong for VOA.
It has been 25 years since the Tiananmen massacre. And while the memory of the government's bloody crack down on protesters is alive in the minds of many, the anniversary is likely to go unnoticed in Chinese media. The media blackout is a strong reminder of how, 25 years after the events of the spring of 1989, China's leaders have yet to respond to one of the protesters' key demands - the call for press freedom.
 
During the 1989 protests, when journalists joined the students in the streets, one of the slogans they displayed on banners was: “Don't force us to tell lies!”
 
A spontaneous gathering to commemorate the death of Hu Yaobang, a reformist leader, evolved into a broader call for political participation and freedom of expression.
 
Leaders split
 
As sit-ins around Tiananmen Square continued for weeks, some publications that were supported by reform-minded leaders covered the events with significant independence.
 
Hong Kong based journalist Liu Ruishao was reporting on the students’ movement from Beijing for a Hong Kong newspaper. He said that the leadership itself had planted the seed for more accurate news reporting at a Party congress in 1987.
 
“Leaders had made statements saying that people should be informed and discuss about important events. The environment was more open, and people in the media circles were very active,” said Liu.
 
That relatively free media environment began to be curbed when Beijing imposed martial law on May 20. Then, the violent crackdown on protesters on June 4 showed that the hard line within the Communist party had prevailed.
 
Aftermath for the media
 
Leaders who had spoken in favor of media reform were marginalized, and a draft law intended to make media more open was shelved.
 
China’s leaders then used state-controlled media to amplify their message denouncing the democratic movement. Many journalists who had sided with the students were jailed or suspended.
 
Chang Ping, a well-known journalist ostracized in China for his bold editorials on sensitive issues, said that by 1989 the leadership decided that media freedom was a liability.
 
“The Communist party came to a conclusion after Tiananmen," he said. "Not having properly controlled the media was a huge lesson for them, the lesson came from the events in Tiananmen, from the Soviet Union collapse and the changes in Eastern Europe. So," he said, "after Tiananmen they realized that controlling the media was a top priority.”
 
China is online
 
Twenty-five years later, China is now the world's biggest market for newspapers and internet users, both of which are closely regulated by authorities.
 
Despite the constant policing of content deemed sensitive, the Internet remains a major force for spreading information and exchanging ideas. Internet users routinely use the medium to discuss sensitive political ideas, shame officials accused of corruption or post videos of lawbreakers.
 
Fine line for journalists
 
While some of the work of journalists and citizen bloggers leads to party and police investigations, reporters still face big risks when using the internet to distribute their findings or comment on sensitive topics.
 
Authorities recently charged journalist Gao Yu with divulging state secrets after she shared the contents of an internal party policy paper with foreign media organizations.
 
Ching Cheong, a senior Hong Kong journalist, faced the same charge in 2005 and was imprisoned for almost three years.
 
He said there used to be hope among intellectuals and the public that the internet would be a catalyst for freedom, but such optimism has since faded.
 
“Clearly this is not going to happen, because Chinese president Xi Jinping has just ordered the set up of a national commission to monitor cyber security and he also mentioned last year in his August 19 speech that the internet has become a source of threat to national security,” said Ching.
 
Journalists still pushing back
 
After that speech, authorities launched a campaign to punish rumor mongering online, criminally charging bloggers for posting content deemed sensitive.
 
Journalists are still defying state censorship. Despite years of censorship, Hong Kong journalist Liu Ruishao said, the public still clamors for unfiltered information and open debate.
 
“The policies on media freedom have not changed in the past 25 years," he said. "But what has changed are the increasing aspirations for media freedom from common people, staff in the media industry, intellectuals and students. Common people and journalists are not leaving propaganda officials with the monopoly on news.”
 
Journalism chilled despite profusion of media
 
Still, this year's Tiananmen anniversary is likely to go unnoticed on Chinese media.
 
While in the last decades journalists have gained more leeway to cover social and political events, June 4 is still a taboo topic. Authorities already have warned foreign journalists against reporting from Tiananmen Square.

You May Like

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: jonathan huang from: canada
May 29, 2014 1:39 PM
I know everyone stood in front of an Americans tank was died. Only PLA soldiers care about innocent ppl and try to go around him. American police can shoot an unarmed ppl 90 rounds to kill him. there is a clearly difference between china and America! I am so glad china is getting better and better. ppl is getting richer, society is more open. good job the communist party!
In Response

by: feng from: luo
May 29, 2014 9:59 PM
are u kidding me?

by: Won Free Man from: US
May 29, 2014 9:48 AM
To this day, the identity of the man stands in front of tanks on the Avenue of Eternal Peace, June 5, 1989 is still not known except for his name which is: Won Brave Man.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs