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China intensifies its clamp down on journalists

(Sept. 29, 2005)The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisationrepresenting more than 500,000 journalists over 110 countries, is deeplyconcerned that press freedom abuses in China have gone from bad to worse inrecent times.

The Chinese government has intensified it systematic attack on press freedomand journalists' safety, jailing several Chinese journalists without regardfor legal justice or the right of appeal.

The IFJ calls on all governments to link their trade with China to human andpress rights to make it clear that abuses cannot continue if China wants tostrengthen its links to the global economy. (boxun.com)

"The path of the Chinese government, in its recent pursuit of journalistswith legal cases, is littered with abuses and unashamed abandonment of itsown legal procedures," said IFJ President Christopher Warren.

"It is clear that the Chinese government has embarked on a disturbingmission to suffocate any form of government criticism," said the IFJPresident.

"China's record of violating journalists' rights is well known to theinternational community, and as the world opens up to trade with China, itsuse of the law to intimidate, harass and imprison journalists is becomingmore frequent and more damaging," he said.

"The international community cannot be complacent in allowing human andpress rights abuses to worsen in China while opening its doors to lucrativetrade with the world's most populated country," said Warren.

In a string of criminal and civil law abuses that fly in the face ofinternational human rights standards, the Chinese government's legal abusesrepresent a direct, unashamed attempt to suppress news reports anddissemination of information contrary to the government's agenda.

Yahoo! and the imprisonment of Chinese journalists Shi Tao One of the mostconcerning cases in China is the imprisonment of Shi Tao, a 37-year-oldjournalist and foreign correspondent for Dangdai Shang Bao (ContemporaryBusiness News).

On April 30, Shi Tao was sentence to 10 years imprisonment by the ChangshaIntermediate People's Court after it convicted him for allegedly 'leakingstate secrets abroad'.

The alleged 'state secrets' were Shi's notes about instructions from thegovernment imposing restrictions on coverage of the 15th anniversary of theTiananmen Square crackdown on June 3, 1989. Shi emailed his notes to theeditor of a New York-based website.

At the request of Chinese authorities Yahoo! Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd.provided detailed information that was used to link Shi's personal emailaccount and IP address with the message.

Shi Tao did not deny sending the email but disputed the 'secret' nature ofthe information he sent.

"Yahoo!'s complicity in helping the Chinese government jail a journalist isquite frightening for the future of human and press rights in China," saidthe IFJ President Christopher Warren.

"It is appalling to think that multi-national companies are happy to closetheir eyes or even contribute to press freedom abuses in China in order tosecure a large, profitable market," said the IFJ President.

"Governments and corporate companies trading with China have to take astrong ethical stance and make sure their business with China does notresult in the violation of internationally agreed human rights or pressfreedom standards," said Warren.

Yahoo! has responded criticism of its actions with a statement saying, "Justlike any other global company, Yahoo! must ensure that its local countrysites must operate within the laws, regulations and customs of the countryin which they are based.

However, although Yahoo! has a contractual obligation to comply with theChina's laws, the company is not legally obliged to assist and co-operatewith police investigations.

Operating under the law of Hong Kong, Yahoo! voluntarily signed the "PublicPledge on Self-Discipline for the China Internet Industry" censorshipagreement in 2002, agreeing to abide by Chinese censorship regulations. As aresult, internet searches entered into the China search engine that arejudged 'sensitive' by Chinese authorities only retrieve limited searchresults.

Yahoo! has been expanding its presence in China to attract business from thecountry's increasing internet user population. Currently, over 100 millionpeople in China are accessing the internet. In August this year, Yahoo!purchased a 40 per cent stake in the Chinese company Alibaba.com for US$1billion.

It is not only Yahoo! that has come under fire for censoring news sites andpreventing access to 'sensitive' information. Google and MSN have both beencriticised for censoring content the Chinese government disagrees with.

Worryingly, Microsoft has censored words such as 'freedom', 'human rights','democracy' and 'dalai lama' from its blogging service and MSN Spaces. BothGoogle and MSN have been increasing their corporate presence in China.

The IFJ is gravely concerned that the compliance of these companies may bepart of a growing trend where regressive Chinese laws and human rightsviolations are quietly accepted in return for profitable market access.

Justice violations in the pursuit of Shi Tao's conviction When Shi was firstdetained in the north-eastern city of Taiyuan on November 24 last year,authorities confiscated his computer and other documents, and warned hisfamily to remain silent about Shi's arrest.

Shi was not officially charged with 'leaking state secrets abroad' untilalmost a month later on December 14.

During Shi's trial, Chinese state security argued that the internal messagewas classified 'Jue Mi', or 'top-secret'. Shi Tao concurred that he hadpassed the message on to some foreign-based websites, but contested theclassification of the message as top-secret.

Constituting a violation of criminal procedure, Shi's appeal hearing on June2 was closed to the public and dismissed without a proper hearing.

In the latest attempt for justice, Shi Tao's mother, Gao Qinsheng, filed arequest for review with the Hunan Province People's High Court. Shi'slawyer, Mo Shaoping, also filed a brief in support of the request.

The IFJ has condemned the Chinese government's abuse and manipulation of thelegal system by assigning precedence to vague government regulations tounjustly imprison journalists.

Former US President Bill Clinton fails to support Shi Tao Shi Tao's case hasgarnered global concern and heightened condemnation of internet providerYahoo! Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd. since it was linked to the arrest anddetention of the journalist.

On September 9, 2005, the day before the start of the China Internet Summitin Hangzhou, Human Rights in China (HRIC) and Reporters Without Borders(RSF) wrote to former US President Bill Clinton, as keynote speaker of thesummit, urging him to raise Shi's case and encourage internet giants toimplement their human rights obligations.

Sponsored by Yahoo!'s new Chinese partner Alibaba.com, the summit was anopportunity for Clinton to raise the spectre of China's 'censorship andsilence' regime to a delegation of CEOs from the world's leading internetcompanies. However, Clinton sidestepped discussion of the jailed journalistsand opted to comment on the impact of active censorship policies oncommercial prospects in China.

Foreign correspondent Ching Cheong charged with spying On April 22, 2005Ching Cheong, chief China correspondent for Singapore's The Straits Timesnewspaper, was taken into custody by security agents and later charged withspying.

On August 5, the Beijing National Security Bureau formally accursed Ching ofspying, alleging he established channels between mainland China and HongKong, systematically gathered economic and military intelligence and sold itto the Taiwan.

Foreign Ministry officials claim Ching has confessed tointelligence-gathering activities for the Taiwan National Security Bureau inreturn for a substantial fee.

Like the family harassment employed by the government in case of Shi Tao,Ching Cheong's wife, Mary Lau, kept her husband's detention a secret afterbeing threatened by Chinese authorities not to go public about Ching'sarrest. Lau finally decided to go public when mainland officials told herthat the Chinese government intended to charge him with 'stealing core statesecrets.'

Ching is a Hong Kong citizen, a legal resident of Singapore, and is awell-respected and experienced journalist.

Upon arrest, Ching was placed under a form of detention called 'residenceunder surveillance' in Beijing without any evidence supporting the chargesagainst him. Ching has been kept in isolation, denied all legal recourse andrefused access to family members and Strait Times colleagues.

The IFJ and its affiliates will continue to demand the dropping of allcharges and the speedy release of Ching.

No trial in sight, New York Times researcher Zhao Yan marks one year indetention Journalist Zhao Yan has also fallen victim to China's looselydefined state secrets law.

Chinese researcher for the New York Times, Zhao was arrested and detained onSeptember 17, 2004 for 'divulging state secrets', a crime punishable bydeath.

In October 2004, authorities formally charged Zhao, alleging he informed theNew York Times of the President's resignation before it was officiallyannounced. The New York Times has repeatedly denied Zhao's involvement withthe story.

Zhao continues to remain incarcerated at a Ministry of Public Securitydetention centre in Southern Beijing and has been held in isolation andsubjected to constant interrogations.

According to one source, Zhao has lost 10 kilograms and his repeatedlyrequested for a biopsy for a skin condition have been refused.

Despite this pressure, Zhao has not confessed to any crime.

"This unlawful imprisonment is a chilling example of China's persistentlyaggressive oppression of journalists' rights and press freedom," said IFJPresident Christopher Warren.

"Zhao has been detained without trail for more than a year," said the IFJPresident.

"This case is evidence of the extent of China's disdain for human rights andpress freedom. It sends a message to the international community that theChinese authorities are free to use any means, legal or otherwise to silencejournalists," said Warren.

Imprisoned journalist Zhang Lin resorts to hunger strike On January 29, 2005Zhang Yin, a freelance journalist and foreign correspondent, was detained inAnhui for allegedly 'inciting subversion' through a radio interview and sixpress articles that were posted on overseas dissident news websites.

Zhang was arrested while travelling home from Beijing where he went to mournthe death of communist party leader Zhao Ziyang. Party leader Zhao wasousted from the Chinese government after opposing the use of force againstprotestors in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

On July 28, the Anhui Intermediate People's Court convicted Zhang ofinciting subversion and sentenced to five years imprisonment.

Since his arrest, Zhang's health has dramatically deteriorated. Zhang washospitalised in early September after going on a hunger strike fromSeptember 4 to protest his imprisonment.

Zhang's wife believes her husband is also being punished for a series ofessays he wrote concerning protests by unemployed workers and recent casesof jailed officials.

Zhang will appeal the verdict against him. The IFJ supports Zhang's appeal,and urges the Chinese government to follow the rule of law in accordancewith the constitution, allow Zhang a fair and free trial and afford dueprocess.

"The IFJ and its affiliates demand that all journalists currently behindbars are released, and that press freedom is respected in China", said IFJPresident Christopher Warren.

"Journalists currently imprisoned have become the victims of a vague andoutdated set of national security regulations which provide the Chinesegovernment with an open field to perpetuate legal abuse in the name ofnational security," said the IFJ President.

For further information, please contact Christopher Warren on +61 411 757668. (boxun.com)

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