Beijing Declines to Say How It Will Guarantee Press Freedom During 2022 Winter Olympics

March 7, 2021 Updated: March 7, 2021

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs failed to provide specifics during its regular press briefing on March 2 about its promise of complete media freedom for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games.

Following a report released by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC), which indicated a “rapid decline in media freedom” in China, based on 150 responses to a survey of correspondents and interviews with bureau chiefs, a reporter from ZDF television at the briefing asked: “How do you respond to that [FCCC report]?

“For example, when we talk about the Beijing Winter Olympic Games, where there will be a lot of international journalists coming to China, in which way can they get the possibility to report objectively and with the freedom of media?”

Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin mostly defended the regime’s media environment against “unfair, biased reports,” and rejected the FCCC report as “paranoid ideas of a handful of Western journalists,” while largely sidestepping the second question.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) expelled more than a dozen foreign journalists at U.S.-based media organizations in 2020, and “zeroed out” accredited Australian journalists in China.

While foreign reporters based in China typically receive one-year visas and must renew them annually, at least 13 correspondents were given press credentials valid for six months or less, the FCCC said. Meanwhile, the CCP utilized state power, including surveillance systems, to harass and intimidate journalists, their Chinese colleagues, and even interviewees during the CCP virus pandemic.

Wang described restrictions on journalists as “China’s goodwill to help journalists and their families return to China.”

Foreign journalists have reportedly been used as “pawns” in China’s diplomatic disputes.

Amid tension between China and Australia, Chinese Australian journalist Cheng Lei was formally arrested in China on suspicion of illegally supplying state secrets overseas on Feb. 5, after being detained for six months without charge.

According to a Committee to Protect Journalists special report by Elana Beiser on Dec. 15, 2020, China was found to be the world’s worst jailer for the second consecutive year in a row, including 47 journalists imprisoned, many of whom are serving long sentences, or jailed in the Xinjiang region without any charge disclosed.

And yet still, no solid commitment to “free reporting” was made when spokesman Wang mentioned the 2022 Olympic Games.

“As for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, it is another important contribution China will make to the international Olympic movement. … We firmly believe that the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games will be a simple, safe, and splendid Olympic gathering,” Wang said.