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The Fog of Censorship


Empty Promises: Human Rights Protections and China’s Criminal Procedure Law (2001) China: Minority Exclusion, Marginalization and Rising Tensions (2007) State Secrets: China’s Legal Labyrinth (2007) Challenging China: Struggle and Hope in an Era of Change (2007)




He Qinglian     Human Rights in China |  ,     Copyright © 2008 by Human Rights in China He, Qinglian.

The Fog of Censorship: Media control in China ISBN 13 978-0-9717356-2-0, ISBN 0-9717356-2-X Library of Congress Control Number: 2007926101 This book is the translation of an expanded and updated version of Media Control in China (Zhongguo zhengfu ruhe kongzhi meiti), published in Chinese by Human Rights in China in

2004. The expanded and updated Chinese edition was published in Taiwan by Li Ming Cultural Enterprises in 2006 as Wusuo Zhongguo: Zhongguo dalu kongzhi meiti celue da jiemi. Portions of this translation were previously published in earlier versions in China Rights Forum, the quarterly journal of Human Rights in China.

              Printed in the United States by Human Rights in China, New York Contents  ix  xi  Shattering the Myths about China’s Media Market xiii   Media Control and Public Ignorance 1 Media control in China before 1978 Media control since “reform and opening-up” in 1978 The myth of China’s “media reform” in 2003   Government Control of the Chinese Media 22 The law versus the constitution The Chinese government’s tracking and management of the media “Unified news coverage” of major incidents The political education and thought control of media professionals The life and times of China’s propaganda czars vi | Contents   The Political and Economic Control of Media Workers 44 The media’s political pyramid The function of rank Case study: CCTV’s “Focus”   “Internal (neibu) Documents

–  –  –

The jailing of Gao Qinrong The recall of a “reactionary book” Jiang Weiping, jailed for subversion Exposing official corruption as a punishable offense  

–  –  –

Southern Weekend’s heyday Reasons for Southern Weekend’s Survival The gradual evisceration of Southern Weekend Why was Southern Weekend rendered powerless?

–  –  –

“Free” foreign journalists and “unfree” interviewees Containing foreign journalists Using foreign journalists Foreign journalists in Chinese media The stories of two foreign journalists   Foreign Investment in China’s Media Industry 160 Chinese media off-limits to foreign investors

–  –  –

Controlling access to foreign news in China Can foreign investment bring press freedom?

viii | Contents  

–  –  –

The continued influence of Cold War ideology on China’s international relations Ideological indoctrination and the creation of enemies

–  –  –

reedom of expression and of the press, along with freedom of association, F are critical to promoting accountable and transparent governance and the development of an independent and flourishing civil society. Yet the challenges presented by systemic information control and censorship in China are complex, ongoing, and especially difficult in the face of China’s growing international influence and presence.

For many years, He Qinglian, a prominent Chinese journalist, economist and best-selling author, has provided detailed research and trenchant analysis of the problems facing China. Since 2004, Human Rights in China has been fortunate to host He Qinglian as our senior researcher-in-residence. In 2004, HRIC published He Qinglian’s ground-breaking Chinese-language report on media censorship, Media Control in China. With publication of The Fog of Censorship, we are pleased to make available this expanded English-language edition of Zhongguo zhengfu ruhe kongzhi meiti [ ] (2003).

如 制 HRIC’s research and advocacy programs have also addressed issues of censorship and the Internet, and the roles of foreign internet technology (IT) companies and the international community in promoting free flow of information.

HRIC’s support of independent research such as He Qinglian’s projects is an integral part of our contribution to further understanding by promoting the expression of diverse opinions and perspectives. We welcome ongoing discussion and feedback.

S H Executive Director, Human Rights in China Acknowledgments he Chinese government’s United Front Campaign has been so effective T that some foreign individuals and organizations are willing to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses in China and sing the government’s praises in order to further their own interests. I do not wish to dwell on those who bow to the regime, because their kind has existed throughout human history. Yet even in the darkest eras, there have always been people willing to put aside personal interests for the sake of justice and humanity.

A few international human rights organizations have campaigned tirelessly for human rights in China, particularly Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, and Human Rights in China. The factual information these nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) collect and disseminate under extremely difficult circumstances is a powerful antidote to the disinformation spread by the foreign admirers of the Chinese government. To cite just one example: Freedom in the World 2004: The Annual Survey of Political Rights and Civil Liberties (2004 Edition), a report published by the U.S.-based NGO Freedom House, ranked Taiwan the “most free” among Asian countries, fractionally behind Japan. Mainland China was ranked among Asia’s “least free,”only slightly better than North Korea and Saudi Arabia. It is also thanks to the unceasing efforts of these human rights organizations that the treatment of China’s prisoners of conscience has improved since the days of Mao Zedong.

I must also express my admiration for the men and women within China who have never compromised with the regime. Coming from China, I know all too well the price paid by those who refuse to compromise, including being isolated by intellectuals who fear associating with “heretics.” This book names and pays homage to many Chinese journalists who have been imprisoned for their efforts to expose corruption. These men and women of conscience are like a lamp with an ever-burning flame. Others have devoted themselves passionately to furthering freedom of speech, some even paying with their lives. Liu xii | Acknowledgments Chengjun, a Falun Gong practitioner, was one of them. On March 5, 2002, Liu and some friends managed to intercept eight cable television networks in Changchun City and Songyuan City, Jilin Province, and televised a program entitled “Self-Immolation or a Staged Act?” exposing the Chinese government’s cover-up of its persecution of Falun Gong and the staged immolation the government claimed was the action of practitioners. Liu was arrested and subjected to 21 months of torture that led directly to his death. He paid with his life, but thanks to his sacrifice, many people learned the truth about the government’s persecution of Falun Gong.

China’s hope lies with the brave men and women who continue to struggle for freedom. This book gives an account of the sacrifices made by heroes in the cause of freedom of the press. Their efforts are changing China little by little. I have learned from a number of World War II documentaries that the Nazi persecution of Jews was welcomed in many European countries because it served the short-term interests of certain governments that collaborated shamefully with Nazi rule. It is my fervent hope that ever fewer foreign companies, organizations, and individuals will sacrifice principle for expediency in regard to China, because the Chinese people desperately need the international support of those who champion democracy and justice.

A China grounded on a solid foundation of constitutional democracy and integrity in government and politics would make a far more positive contribution to world civilization than today’s China, ruled by a corrupt dictatorship that regards ordinary citizens as worthless, pursues an unprincipled foreign policy, and cares only about its own political interests.

I hope that this book will help lift the veil covering China. Only those who understand the real China can effectively assist the Chinese people in building a free and democratic nation.

I would like to especially express my gratitude to Human Rights in China, the NGO that commissioned, supported, and published my research project on media control in China. The first report I wrote was published in Chinese by HRIC in November 2004. Working on this project, in addition to reading numerous articles and other materials, helped to sort out my own experiences during the many years I worked as a journalist in China, in combination with many articles and other materials I read. For the deeper understanding I gained of the principle of freedom of the press and the history of media control in China, I express my heartfelt thanks to Human Rights in China.

H Q, United States, January 6, 2008  Shattering the Myths About China’s Media Market n 2006, the international community finally began to take notice of the ChiI nese government’s increasingly tighter control of the media. Since late 2005, one article after another has circulated on the Internet reporting the purge of a Chinese media outlet: Xinjingbao (Beijing News) was forced to stop publication;

Bingdian (Freezing Point), the weekly supplement of Zhongguo Qingnianbao (China Youth Daily), was closed down; the editor-in-chief of Gongyi Shibao (Public Interest Times) was replaced; Shenzhen Fazhi Bao (Shenzhen Legal Daily) was closed down; and the website of Baixing (People) magazine was also temporarily shut down. Although the circumstances behind each closure were different, together they presented a dismal picture of the Chinese government’s attacks on the media. Under pressure from human rights groups, the U.S. Congress summoned major Internet companies to Washington to berate them for assisting the Chinese government in censoring the Internet.

In a particularly egregious move, on July 5, 2006, China’s National People’s Congress passed a draft law imposing fines of 50,000–100,000 yuan for unauthorized news reports of outbreaks of disease, natural disasters, social disturbances and other “public emergencies.”1 This brazen legislative infringement of freedom of the press dealt the final blow to whatever hopes the international community may have entertained for the Chinese government. Foreign correspondents in China are finally expressing some concern that their newsgathering activities may be subject to legal restrictions—a full four and a half years after the publication of the Chinese-language edition of this report, entitled Zhongguo zhengfu ruhe kongzhi meiti (Media Control in China).

Before I embarked on a life of exile outside China, I worked at a media outlet in Shenzhen and learned firsthand how the Chinese government controls the media. I began to gather materials in the hope that I would one day be able to pubxiv | Introduction: Shattering the Myths About China’s Media Markets lish what I had learned. When I came to the United States, I was able to work on and complete Media Control in China in 2003, thanks to support from Human Rights in China, in New York. This English translation is a revised second edition of the Chinese-language report, which was published in Taiwan.

The facts marshaled in this book present a bitter truth: in China, the media, which are supposed to belong to society as a whole, do not fulfill their watchdog function. The only watchdog is the government itself, which has its eye on media organizations and journalists. The main difference between the Chinese and the Western media is evident from the Chinese government’s own definition of the media as the“Party’s mouthpiece.”However, a number of doubts have been raised by foreign journalists who have interviewed me—doubts that reveal widespread

misconceptions about the Chinese media, as follows:

–  –  –

Market liberalization promotes media liberalization When I proposed to HRIC that I work on Media Control in China, one of the questions directed to me was: The Chinese media are currently undergoing a process of market liberalization; and one foreign media outlet after another is entering China. Given that these two processes will inevitably promote the liberalization of the Chinese media landscape, how can the Chinese government succeed in controlling the media? BBC correspondent Tim Luard asked this same question during our interview on February 16, 2006.

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