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China Represses Media at Home and Manipulates it Overseas

October 23, 2013
Tibetan Activist protesting in Front of the UN, Geneva (Pic Reuters)

Western governments, Tuesday, criticised China at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for the suppressing freedom of information and speech, including those of netizens, and the Tibetan and Uyghur minorities. Meanwhile, on the same day a Washington think-tank released two reports on China’s bid improve its international profile by manipulating and coercing institutions and individuals overseas.    

Speaking during the UNHRC sessions in Geneva, during China’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Uzra Zeya, acting assistant secretary in the U.S. State Department’s bureau of democracy, human rights and labour said, “We’re concerned that Chinasuppresses freedoms of assembly, association, religion and expression…, harasses, detains and punishes activists…, targets rights defenders’ family members and friends and implements policies that undermine the human rights of ethnic minorities,” reported Reuters.
Meanwhile, protesting the crackdown on Tibet, Tibetan activists in Geneva displayed on top of a building a banner that read, “China fails human rights in Tibet – U.N. stand up for Tibet.”
Among the victims of the Chinese authorities’ cracked down in recent weeks are three Tibetan writers detained for “political activities aimed at destroying social stability and dividing the Chinese homeland.” These writers were sources of information to the outside world on what was happening within Tibet, which is subjected to surveillance and harsh travel restrictions – especially for foreign non-Chinese.
“Instead of trying to turn Tibet into an information black hole, the Chinese authorities must put an immediate stop to these arbitrary arrests and release those detained without delay. We urge the international community to forcefully condemn their detention,” the Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RSF) said.
RSF released the names and brief description of the three detainees: Kalsang Choedhar, a monk from Palyul monastery, arrested in eastern Tibet, on October 12 for circulating information about a two-week-old crackdown by the Chinese authorities in Driru county; Tsultrim Gyaltsen (27), a Tibetan writer and former monk, who has written two books about Tibet and used to edit a Tibetan-language magazine called The New Generation,arrested in Driru province on October 11; Yulgal (25), a former Security Bureau officer who resigned because of the “political” nature of his work, arrested on October 12.
In another recent incident, this time in Guangzhou, Chinese authorities charged Liu Hu, an investigative journalist working for the daily Xin Kuai Bao with defamation on September 30. Hu was arrested on August 24, for posting on his Sina Weibo account about Ma Zhengqi, a senior official of the Chinese bureaucracy and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) of negligence of duty and implication in corruption.
“We condemn the way investigative reporters are being hounded, seen again in this decision to charge Liu. This is being done to deter journalists and netizens from investigating embezzlement and other illegal practices by officials protected by the party. We call for Liu’s immediate release,” said RSF.
While this onslaught against the independent media goes on in China with its repercussions in the UNHRC, the Centre for Media Assistance (CIMA), a part of the Washington DC-based National Endowment for Democracy (NED) launched two studies on Tuesday that examine the working of the Chinese media overseas. They are, ‘CCTV’s International Expansion: China’s Grand Strategy for Media‘ by Ann Nelson, who teaches at New York’s Columbia University’s International and Public Affairs and ‘The Long Shadow of Chinese Censorship: How the Communist Party’s Media Restrictions Affect News Outlets around the World‘ by Sarah Cook, senior research analyst at Freedom House, also in New York.
 â€˜CCTV’s International Expansion: China’s Grand Strategy for Media,’ makes the case that “On one hand, CCTV (China Central Television) produces sophisticated long form reports on complex international issues such as climate change; at the same time, its reporting on the Chinese Communist Party echoes the party line.
“In an era when Voice of America and BBC World Service budgets are battered by funding cutbacks and partisan politics, China is playing the long game. CCTV’s content is defined by the same ideological directives and limitations that govern the country’s university debates, feature films, and microblogs. The limitations have been exercised for decades; what’s new is their implication for global media markets.”
‘The Long Shadow of Chinese Censorship: How the Communist Party’s Media Restrictions Affect News Outlets around the World’ points out that “In many cases, Chinese officials directly impede independent reporting by media based abroad … (But) the interviews and incidents analyzed in this study suggest a systematic effort to signal to commercial partners and media owners that their operations in China and access to Chinese citizens will be jeopardized if they assist, do business with, or refrain from censoring voices the CCP has designated as politically undesirable.”
Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.