December 15, 2018

Press Freedom

China

OPC Denounces China’s Sentence for Online Praise of Freedom

H.E. Hu Jintao, President

People’s Republic of China
Fax: (011.86.10.6) 512.5810

H.E. Wen Jiabao, Prime Minister
People’s Republic of China
Fax: (011.86.10.6) 512.5810

Your Excellencies:

We note with sorrow — but not surprise — the harsh sentence given to writer, Li Tie: ten years’ imprisonment for his online articles, in which he urged respect for ordinary citizens, called for democracy and political reform, and urged basic human rights.

That any citizen should be put on trial for embracing universal and civilized human rights is outrageous, a violation of China’s Constitution and — for your government – counter-productive.  To your citizens, it is another illustration of your willingness to beat down free press, free expression and human dignity.  To the outside world, it proves yet again that you do not keep your word; and this growing reputation will haunt China in its drive to become a major power.

Years before your nation won the right to stage the Olympic Games, your government promised to enact reforms for personal freedoms, to allow unfettered reporting, and to soften your harsh human rights crackdowns.  Now, you have sentenced a journalist to ten years’ imprisonment for doing the very things you promised to permit.

Li Tie never took part in any social activism movement, and his online statement that “Human beings’ heaven is human dignity” is far from subversion of state power.  As the Committee to Protect Journalists said, Li’s imprisonment is unjust and is clearly meant to send a message to Chinese journalists who fall outside accepted government guidelines.

Article 35 of China’s Constitution provides that “citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, press, assembly, association and demonstration.”  Thus far, that clause has been a scrap of paper.  Today, journalists, bloggers and ordinary citizens are routinely harassed, and sometimes assaulted and jailed, for attempting to exercise these rights.  Access to Web sites such as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and blogspot are all blocked in Beijing.  No sites associated with a free Tibet, the Falun Gong, human rights watch and a host of others are allowed in China.

According to Article 17 of China’s Regulations on Reporting Activities in China by Foreign Journalists, foreign journalists are free to interview all individuals in China once they have obtained the interviewee’s consent.  That, too, is now a scrap of paper, it seems.  China’s Public Security Bureau has failed to comply with the regulations introduced after the Olympic Games. These regulations not only provide foreign journalists freedom to publish articles, but also freedom of movement in their reporting.  Yet, Chinese authorities have imposed a security cordon preventing journalists from entering ethnic Tibetan areas of China’s southern Sichuan Province.  Reporters attempting to travel there are followed by unidentified people, escorted by police back to the airport, questioned over multiple hours, forced to delete images from their cameras and have their research and writing materials confiscated.

However cynical it proved, your promise before the Olympics to ease restrictions on the media and human rights at least underscored the fact that you understand the concept of freedom, why it is so valued by your trading partners, and your people’s desire for it.  In fact, freedom is neither an eastern nor a western idea…but a universal value.  This was recognized by the United Nations in its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and has been proved again and again by popular uprisings in cultures as diverse as Hungary, Egypt and Syria.  While repression may fend off such demands temporarily, it can only increase the pressure that will eventually become overwhelming.

The Overseas Press Club of America, an independent organization that has defended press freedom around the world for more than 70 years, calls on your government to honor its promises and order the Public Security Bureau to ensure immediately that its officers adhere to the regulations protecting the rights of journalists and investigate any violation of these rules.  Until Chinese writers are free to call for reform, criticize the national leadership, and voice alternate political perspectives without fear of arrest, China’s press will not be free.  And unless your government begins to honor its word, the other nations of the world will continue to distrust a country whose people deserve so much better.

Respectfully yours,

Tom Squitieri
Larry Martz

cc:

H.E. Zhou Wenzhong
Ambassador to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
2300  Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC  20008
Fax: (202) 966.0631

Ambassador Zhang Yesui
Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China
to the United Nations
350 East 35 Street
New York, NY  10016
Fax: (212) 634.7626

H.E. Gary Locke
U.S. Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China.
Embassy of the United States of America
No. 55 An Jia Lou Lu
100600  Beijing
China
Fax: (011.86.10.6) 532.6929

Editor
China Daily
No. 15 Dongjie, Chaoyang District
Beijing  100029
China
Fax: (011.86.10) 84.88.36

Editor, People’s Daily
No. 2 Jintain Xilu, Chaovang District
Beijing 100733
People’s Republic of China

Maria Otero
Under Secretary of State for Democracy  and Global Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C.  20520