Foreign Correspondents Clubs in Asia Express Concerns About Detained Chinese Journalist

December 16, 2020 Updated: December 16, 2020

Foreign Correspondents’ Clubs (FCCs) in seven Asian regions issued a joint statement on Dec. 15, expressing concerns over the detention of a Chinese journalist working for Bloomberg News.

Fan Haze, a Chinese citizen, was taken from her home in Beijing by plainclothes officers of the local state security bureau on Dec. 7, allegedly on suspicion of endangering national security. She worked for numerous foreign media, including Reuters and Al Jazeera, before she started working for Bloomberg in 2017.

“The FCCs stand by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China in its efforts to seek an explanation on why the Chinese authorities detained Fan,” stated the seven FCCs of Japan, Hong Kong, Jakarta, the Philippines, South Asia, Taiwan, and Thailand.

The FCCs added: “Chinese nationals perform invaluable roles in support of foreign media in China. Without their work, it would be difficult for foreign media to operate in China, and their safety is a matter of the highest concern.”

The trade association also said in its joint statement that it was alarmed at the “deteriorating conditions for journalists working for international media in China.”

In March, the FCCC released an annual media freedom report based on responses from 114 of its members representing 25 countries and regions, outlining how journalists “routinely encountered government interference, harassment, or violence” while in the field.

One example cited in the report was Tom Cheshire, Asia correspondent for British media Sky News, who stated that while reporting in China’s far-western region of Xinjiang, armed police in Hotan city “prevented us from reaching a suspected detention camp.”

“[T]hey grabbed us, tried to take our cameras and phones from our hands, etc,” he recalled.

The report also documented cases of Chinese officials summoning journalists to meetings or lecturing them not to cross “red lines,” threatening that there would be “unwelcome consequences” if they did not comply. 33 percent of respondents stated they were summoned to a meeting at China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs after they traveled to Xinjiang.

In one case, an unnamed international news agency photographer stated that uniformed police officers “lectured about obeying Chinese laws in our reporting” after they arrived in Xinjiang’s Kashgar city. On several occasions, the photographer said there were people who walked in front of him telling “residents to go back inside their houses.”

Between 900,000 and 1.8 million Muslim ethnic minorities, including Uyghurs, have been detained in more than 1,300 concentration camps in Xinjiang, according to a 2020 report published by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent, bipartisan federal commission. Detainees are subject to torture, political indoctrination, and forced labor.

Beijing has defended its policy in Xinjiang by claiming the camps are “vocational and educational training centers.”

The FCCC report also pointed out that 44 percent of respondents said their Chinese colleagues encountered harassment at least once in 2019.

On Dec. 14, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, while answering a question from a Bloomberg reporter during a daily briefing, stated that Fan was “under investigation.”

Other international rights groups have also recently voiced concerns, including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the National Press Club, and PEN America.

“Allegations by Chinese authorities that Haze Fan engaged in criminal activities that endanger China’s national security have no credibility,” stated Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in a Dec. 11 statement.

He added: “Fan should be freed at once and China should stop harassing foreign news bureaus operating in the country.”

Summer Lopez, senior director of free expression programs at PEN America, in a statement on Dec. 11, highlighted the arrests of Fan and Jimmy Lai, a Hong Kong media tycoon and pro-democracy activist who is being detained in Hong Kong as he faces the charge of “colluding with foreign forces to endanger national security.”

The cases against Fan and Lai “show how the Communist Party of China has decided to treat any media that it does not directly control as a potential or actual enemy of the state,” Lopez said.

On Dec. 15, CPJ released its annual report, naming China as the world’s worst jailer for journalists for the second year in a row. It pointed out that many of the 47 journalists currently imprisoned in China are “serving long sentences or are jailed in the Xinjiang region without any charge disclosed.”

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer