In an effort to stamp out any possible Jasmine Rally activities, the Chinese authorities continue to crack down on Chinese rights activists and lawyers, and resorted to violence against foreign journalists that marks an escalation of media censorship in China.
Since our February 23 press release, Human Rights in China (HRIC) has received information on 19 additional incidents of detention, house arrest, and other forms of harassment in Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Guangzhou. Many continue to be detained without any formal notification to their families of their detention.
In an episode that took place in Beijing last Sunday, February 27, which shook the foreign press community in China and the international community, police in the Wangfujing Street shopping district – a designated Jasmine Rallies location – roughed up, beat, kicked, and detained the reporters and camera crew members of at least 16 foreign media outlets, including Bloomberg, BBC, CNN, and Voice of America, and erased their photos and videos.
On Tuesday, March 1, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) defended the police actions on Sunday. At a press conference, MFA spokesperson Jiang Yu (姜瑜) said that the journalists gathering in a busy business district “affected social order” and that “the police of Beijing properly handled the incident in Wangfujing.”
The police brutality was accompanied by a series of official actions that undermine the relaxation of restrictions on foreign journalists begun at the end of 2008. In the press conference, Jiang pointed to a rule requiring that journalists seek approval from the local district authorities before reporting in the Wangfujing Street shopping district. The cited rule raises concerns about effectiveness of the 2008 regulations, which ended the requirement of official approval before foreign journalists could conduct interviews as long as they have the consent of the individuals interviewed.
On Wednesday, March 2, the BBC Chinese language service reported that more than a dozen foreign journalists in Beijing were summoned to the Public Security Bureau earlier in the day. They were told that if they attempt to cover the Jasmine Rally this upcoming Sunday, March 6, they will have problems renewing their visas. They were also told that going forward they must seek approval before reporting in certain Beijing areas, including Wangfujing, so that the streets can be kept clear of congestion.
Last week, Boxun, a major U.S.-based Chinese news website that had posted several notices about the Jasmine Rallies, announced that it had been attacked and that, “under tremendous pressure,” it would no longer post information relating to the Jasmine Rallies because “the dissemination of information about the Jasmine Rallies has brought harm to countless innocent Chinese activists and netizens.”
“The police attack on journalists who were simply doing their jobs shows that the Chinese authorities are so fearful of losing control that they are willing to pay the price of exposing themselves as thugs and bullies in photos and videos that are going around the world,” said Sharon Hom, HRIC Executive Director.
HRIC urges the international community to firmly support independence of the media in China. HRIC also urges the Chinese government to investigate the incidents of violence against foreign journalists, stop the intimidation of journalists, and release all persons taken into custody or detained as part of the efforts to prevent them from participating in the Jasmine Rallies.
For more information on the Jasmine Rallies, see:
Videos of Reporters Being Beaten and Harassed
HRIC Press Releases
HRIC Video Commentary