A recent string of repression and harassment of China’s already battered league of journalists is a reminder that upholding social stability—not freedom of speech—is their prescribed function, according to the findings of a recent report by Reporters Without Borders.
The case of Chang Ping, a news commentator and longtime employee at the prominent newspaper chain Southern Daily Group, furnishes a recent example. He was not long ago notified by his superior that his columns in Southern Metropolis Daily and Southern Weekend would be suspended: No explanation as to which article or topic had triggered the suspension was given, only that it was due to pressure from “higher-up.”
“A society in which a person is restrained for what he has said is a very abnormal one,” Chang (also known as Zhang Ping) told Radio Free Asia in a recent interview.
Earlier, police identifying themselves as from the “culture and education system” had come to Chang’s office and sternly rebuked him, reminding him that social stability was to be maintained and disturbances were the last thing they wanted.
In 2008, when Chang was deputy editor-in-chief for Southern Metropolis Weekly, he became well-known after publishing a series of articles including “Tibet: Truth and Nationalist Sentiment,” which caused a public uproar. At that time Chang was demoted and transferred from his editorial position to the administration department, where he worked as a researcher in the Communication Center until now. With the recent events any platform for his work has become further reduced.
Chang has a long history of getting into trouble with the regime’s censors. In 2001, when he was the director of the news department at Southern Weekend, he was removed from his position for his open reporting of two highly sensitive cases at the time—the “Zhang Jun case,” a high-profile criminal trial, and the “Shijiazhuang explosion case.” Following this, Chang went on a U.S. “sabbatical” as a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. After returning to China he began working for the Southern Daily Group.
Chang’s repression has drawn the attention of many intellectuals and journalists in China, who have spread the news and expressed their support on blogs and microblogs, sometimes through concealed forms of writing.
"Bully International Group”
Another journalist, Feng Weixiang, who is an investigative reporter for Zhejiang Workers Daily, was harassed and threatened for publishing “sensitive information” on his blog on Sina.com, as reported by RFA.
Feng told RFA on Aug. 26 that his blog was blocked on Aug. 10. He said that all the articles he had posted—some about judicial corruption, most about land disputes and forced demolitions—had already been published.
“I would not possibly post anything that was classified as ‘for internal use,’ because I know I shouldn’t,” he said.
Feng said he quite often receives threatening, anonymous letters, and has also been physically assaulted for exposing the “dark secrets” of some individuals and organizations.
Journalists in China are a regular target by private entities who they report on negatively.
On July 28, a reporter from the Peninsula Metropolis newspaper in Qingdao of Shandong Province was bashed by a gang of men; he had a bone in his hand broken, among other injuries. The reporter had been seeking an interview with managers of a driver education school that was suspected of swindling students.
On July 29, Chen Xiaoying, a female reporter for China Times, responded to an anonymous phone call claiming to have information about Shenzhen International Enterprise Co. Ltd., a company Chen had previously reported on negatively. She followed up the lead and was ambushed by a man who swore at and beat her.
On the afternoon of July 30, a number of journalists for the National Business Daily’s East China News Center were attacked by four persons claiming to be working for the “Bully International Group.”
Reporters Without Borders (RWB) on Aug. 26 summarized several serious recent incidents of violence against journalists in China in its report. The Paris-based NGO condemned the growing trend by influential companies to harass journalists, arguing that China’s journalists have become a new inductee into the ranks of China’s vulnerable groups, sandwiched as they are between the authorities and private interests.
“[M]ore and more journalists are testing the limits of press freedom in China. But, with increasing frequency, they are running up against solid resistance from the government and both state and private-sector companies,” the report states.
Read the original Chinese article.