Reporters Without Borders condemns the many violations of freedom of information in the run-up to tomorrow’s 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Chinese journalists have been arrested, social networks and websites have been censored, and virtually all Google services, from Gmail to Picasa, have been rendered inaccessible since 1 June.
“Journalists, bloggers and other news providers are being subjected to harassment that is increasing as the Tiananmen anniversary approaches,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“We call on the authorities to assume their responsibility by freeing those who have been detained and by lifting the taboo that stills exists on any reference to the massacre. The Chinese public has the right to know the truth that has been hidden from it for the past 25 years.”
According to the available information, the most recent arrests took place on 30 May, when Wang Jianmin and Guo Zhongxiao, two Hong Kong journalists who used to work for Yazhou Zhoukan (Asia Week), were arrested in Shenzhen, the local the Public Security Bureau reported.
Gao Yu, a journalist who won the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize in 1997, went missing on 23 April. She reappeared on 8 May, when the state TV news channel CCTV 13, showed her – with her face blurred out and surrounded by police officers – confessing to having “harmed state interests.”
Former South China Morning Post journalist Vivian Wu, who is also known as Wu Wei, has been missing since 15 May.
Xin Jian, an editorial assistant and reporter for the Japanese newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun, was taken from her home on 13 May for questioning in connection with the investigation into Pu Zhiqiang, a human rights lawyer arrested while attending a 3 May meeting on how to mark the Tiananmen Square anniversary. Xin’s family was told on 26 May that she is accused of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble.”
The authorities have also targeted those who provide reporting or other kinds of content to news sites based abroad that are banned in China.
Xiang Nanfu, a regular contributor to the New York-based news website Boxun, was arrested on 3 May on charges of supplying “fabricated information” that “seriously harmed” China’s image. His confession was also broadcast by CCTV 13. Boxun is censored in China because of its frequent coverage of sensitive subjects.
The authorities have also cracked down on social networks and other websites. Google’s services have been increasingly disrupted in the run-up to the anniversary. According to GreatFire, an NGO that specializes in monitoring online censorship in China, access to Google is now 90 per cent blocked.
Services such as Gmail and Picasa, and sites such as Google.com and Google.com.hk, cannot be accessed at all from Beijing, Shenzhen, Inner Mongolia, Yunnan and Heilongjiang, while access is difficult elsewhere.
The last time a blocking of Google was reported, in 2012, it was complete and lasted 12 hours. This time, because only about 90 per cent of access to Google is blocked, “users think it is a problem with Google or their computer, when instead it’s censorship,” GreatFire founder Charlie Smith said.
Searches for “25年” (25 years), “25 years,” “二十五年 (25 years), “广场”(square) or anything else that might refer to the Tiananmen Square events are also blocked, while microblogging sites are the target of major censorship operations. A Beijing university academic’s Weibo account was blocked after he told an Internet user that there was no rioting in 1989, just peaceful demonstrations that were brutally crushed.
China is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
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