1. June 4 Prompts Return to Sweeping Censorship
Pers istent and increased interference by government officials to
clamp down on all media reporting related to the 20th anniversary of
the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4 indicated a worrying
return to China’s pre-Beijing Olympics intolerance of public
discussion of taboo subjects. The clampdown picked up pace from May,
with numerous incidents of interference reported in one of the
heaviest censorship campaigns seen in China in recent years.
In April, well-known Beijing dissident Zhang Zuhua and online
writer Zan Aizong were reportedly warned by China’s security bureau to
desist from writing about the anniversary.
Around the same time, the bureau reportedly reminded all
websites to censor or delete all June 4-related content, in keeping
with the ban on articles or photos related to June 4 since 1989.
In May, security officials reportedly instructed pro-democracy
activists and members of the Tiananmen Mothers group not to engage
with media personnel for interviews or at memorial events. Meanwhile,
mainland newspapers were instructed by the Propaganda Department not
to use the numbers 6 and 4 simultaneously in any articles.
On May 18, Jiang Qisheng, vice president of Independent PEN, who
has already been jailed for articles previously written about June 4,
was unable to conduct an interview with the Hong Kong press in Beijing
after security20officials intervened. Jiang also reported that he had
been interrogated and his house ransacked following his writing of an
article called “Report of June 4” on May 15.
From May 19, mainland subscribers to Hong Kong newspaper Ming
Pao reported that content had been removed from their papers and
delivery was disrupted, according to an editorial published in Ming
Pao on May 28. Two other Hong Kong newspapers also found that June 4
content was removed and delivery delayed before the papers reached
mainland readers. An anonymous source told Ming Pao that the delays
and missing pages were a result of “senior instruction” to the
On May 25, security officers forced academic Zhou Duo to remain
at home after he said he wanted to go to Tiananmen Square to
participate in a hunger strike. Those who were allowed to go out,
including online writer Zan Aizong, were subject to heavy
Also on May 25, the China Think website, which ran online public
discussion about June 4, was shut down without explanation. Online
journalists, bloggers and writers reported a significant increase in
reports of unavailable internet sites, forced closures of discussion
boards and bans on social networking sites including Twitter, Hotmail,
Blogsp ot and YouTube in the lead-up to June 4.
From the end of May, foreign journalists travelling to mainland
China were not permitted to photograph Tiananmen Square. At the same
time, the Foreign Correspondents Club of China reported some
journalists were blocked from conducting interviews and local
interviewees were warned by security officials to refuse to answer any
On June 3, Zeng Jinyan, blogger and wife of imprisoned human
rights defender Hu Jia, was prevented from leaving her house by
several security bureau officers. She was20among several journalists,
bloggers, academics, dissidents and members of Tiananmen Mothers who
were forced to remain in their houses or denied access to memorial
events in the lead-up to June 4.
Hong Kong-based Esquire magazine reportedly removed 16 pages of
materials related to June 4. The journalist responsible for the
feature articles told the IFJ the last-minute decision to remove the
materials was made by the publisher, South China Media.
2. Charter 08 Supporters Warned Off Media
As many as 50 people listed as signatories to the pro-democracy
petition Charter 08, which was published on December 10, 2008 and
calls for political and democratic reform in China, were warned not to
talk to the media about harassment. Beijing dissident Zhang Zuhua and
academic Jiang Qisheng, both signatories, told the IF J that despite
contending with interrogation and ransacking of their homes, security
officers threatened at the end of May that they would be asked to
leave Beijing regardless of whether they talked to the media or not.
All communication devices of the signatories have also been heavily
3. Journalists Prevented From Reporting Murder Case
June 4 was not the only topic with which censorious officials took
issue. Two separate groups of journalists reported harassment by local
officials while attempting to report in late May on a murder case
involving a local government official in Badong village. Wang Keqin, a
veteran journalist and a blogger, said that he and other journalists
were put under surveillance and then forced to leave Badong on May 28.
Two days earlier, the provincial office of the Central Propaganda
Department reportedly requested an order to stop all coverage of the
case, although none of the media personnel forced to leave Badong had
seen or heard of the order. Kong Pu, of The Beijing News, and Wei Yi
Magazine, of Southern Metropolis Daily, were also reportedly harassed
by plain-clothes officers while interviewing the murder suspect’s
grandmother at her home on May 28. The officials confiscated the two
reporters’ bags and equipment, claiming to be her relatives. Wei’s
camera was returned several hours later.
Harassment of Human Rights Lawyers a No-Go Area
Journalists and media outlets in China are refraining from reporting
cases of harassment of human rights lawyers by the government-run
Beijing Justice Bureau and the Beijing Lawyers’ Association for fear
of potential repercussions, according to reports to the IFJ. A
mainland journalist, who asked to remain anonymous, said that no media
outlet had reported on any of 22 cases of human rights lawyers being
harassed after they alleged malpractice by the association and the
justice bureau. The accusations against the two organisations include
allegations that they instructed law firms to rescind employment
contracts of lawyers involved in human rights cases against the
Chinese authorities. The IFJ expressed its concern at the powerful way
in which official attempts to suppress reporting on matters of public
interest has an effect even without official restrictions.