Watchdog Blasts Treatment of Journalists

A journalist organization says China must stop roughing up foreign reporters.

china-foreign-media-305.jpg Police surround foreign journalists at a Beijing shopping center designated as a protest site by online groups, Feb. 27, 2011.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association has lambasted China’s treatment of foreign reporters as authorities on the mainland crack down on a series of “Jasmine” rallies in major cities.

Foreign journalists have reported being harassed and beaten by police when trying to cover the gatherings, which are styled on popular uprisings in the Middle East.

Yin-Ting Mak, spokesperson for the Hong Kong Journalists Association, said in an interview on Tuesday that the one-party communist leadership had “openly broken its own promise to the international community for democracy, freedom, and rule of law.”

“The Chinese government is too sensitive and now arbitrarily limiting other’s freedom and human rights. This is like the rule of fascism and thus unacceptable,” Mak said.

Mak said current tensions between Beijing and foreign journalists had reached a level unparalleled since the 1989 crackdown on the student-led Tiananmen pro-democracy movement.

“At present, I think tensions are even higher than during the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy movement. Back then, foreign journalists were comparatively free in carrying out their duties,” he said.

Mak called on the Hong Kong government to protect its reporters working in Chinese cities.

“I urge the Hong Kong government to negotiate with the central government in Beijing on the issue of protecting the rights of Hong Kong journalists working in China—guaranteeing their personal safety and press freedom.”

Blocking coverage

Although China has seen no substantial Jasmine protests thus far, Chinese police have attempted to block foreign coverage of demonstrations, warning foreign correspondents away from rally sites chosen by anonymous rally organizers.

Online calls for designated “strolls” in which citizens openly voice their grievances with government inefficiency in a nonviolent manner have been held each Sunday for the past three weeks in the country’s major metropolitan centers.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi denied police involvement at a press conference on the sidelines of China’s annual National People’s Congress, which kicked off in Beijing on Saturday.

"There is no such issue as Chinese police officers beating foreign journalists," he said.

But members of the foreign media have told a different story, frequently reporting harassment, intimidation, and even beatings at the hands of Chinese security personnel.

On Tuesday, a foreign journalist told RFA that even his daily reporting, irrelevant to the Jasmine rallies, has been affected due to shadowing by Chinese security personnel.

“It is extremely troublesome in Beijing right now, because police often bother foreign reporters covering stories unrelated to the Jasmine activities. They could come after you at any moment,” the reporter said.

The reporter said that most foreign journalists in the capital have faced warnings from Beijing police.

“Now I can’t even log into my own Gmail account. It is very hard for us to carry out our daily duties.”

Hunt for organizers

Meanwhile, U.S.-based Chinese website reported Tuesday that police have been intensifying their search for the cyber-activists who launched the weekly Jasmine action in mid-February through posts on microblogging sites.

The true identity of the organizers has never been released, but now, according to Boxun, the hunt is focusing on the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.

As news of the search spread, a netizen in Guangdong said Tuesday that even the arrest of the organizers would carry minimal significance.

“The Jasmine Revolution has already been substantially developed, and therefore it is meaningless to seek this person or the group of persons who initiated the call.”

“Even if police arrest the organizer, others pretending to be the initial activist will send out the same appeal urging action.”

Reported by Xin Yu and Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin service. Translated by Ping Chen. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.


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