Tuesday, June 3, 2014

More Serious Matters

Life in China is not always fun and games. Today is the evening before the 25th anniversary of China's massacre of its own students at Tiananmen Square, and the mood in town is nervous. Internet access is extremely spotty and the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China reports that journalists have been warned and hassled about reporting on the anniversary. Below is a roundup of the various difficulties faced:

"The FCCC condemns the increasing harassment and intimidation of overseas media and their local staff by Chinese authorities in an apparent effort to block reporting about the 25th anniversary of the military crackdown on Tiananmen Square.

The FCCC is deeply concerned that correspondents and their local staff have been summoned by Public Security officers to their office to be given videotaped lectures dissuading them from reporting on the anniversary. Some of the journalists were warned of serious consequences should they disobey the authorities.

This effort to deter news coverage is a gross violation of Chinese government rules governing foreign correspondents, which expressly permit them to interview anybody who consents to be interviewed.  

The FCCC calls on the Chinese government and police to halt their harassment of foreign reporters and to abide by their own rules concerning the international media.

Examples of harassment:
“We showed the iconic photo of “Tank-Man” (a civilian who stood in front of a tank during the military crackdown on June 4th 1989) to people on the street in Sanlitun and tried to interview them about the events 25 years ago.
After 10 minutes police showed up and stopped our reporting. They ordered us into their police car and brought us to Sanlitun police station. They told us they had orders from PSB to do so. After one hour PSB officers showed up and interrogated us. They searched my handbag against my will. They took out the photos, put them in front of us and filmed the photos with us in the background. They took away two business cards of my contacts and photocopied them. We had to hand over the chip from our camera, which had no images on it. They separated us and questioned us for hours while video taping everything. The officer said: “You were speaking about a sensitive topic. You know that the topic is sensitive and the government don’t want people to speak about it.” I asked which Chinese law I broke. He answered: “It’s not a matter of law. It’s a matter of culture. The culture is above the law.”  They brought us back to the corner where we did our interviews. We had to show them where we interviewed people. They videotaped us showing the places. They kept our press cards and ordered us to come to the PSB the next day. We were released at around 9pm after six hours of interrogation.
The next day at the PSB two officers questioned us while another one was videoing. They accused us of “disturbance of public order”. We had to go in front of a video camera and they recorded our statements. We had to admit that we did something “very sensitive” which could cause “disturbance” and  we had to promise not to do what we are accused of in the next days. We got our press cards back and were warned that next time police will keep the press cards and our visas will be canceled.”

-- French Broadcaster

“We were reporting on the strict security in central Beijing ahead of the June 4th anniversary.  In a span of two hours, police asked me for my documents five times. The next day two policemen came into my flat, which also serves as my office. They came with two women, who didn´t wear uniform. These women recorded my house with some mobile phones while the police asked us for documentation. The police said the documentation was for internal use.”
-- European broadcaster

“I was called to the (police) Entry and Exit Bureau (which issues visas), and basically told this year security will be specially strict during the "sensitive period", in "sensitive areas", and with "sensitive interviews" related to the June 4th anniversary. They asked me to convey this to the bureau chief and other journalists in our bureau. They said that this is a second warning for me personally, and if I do not abide Chinese law, I should ‘expect the most serious consequences."
-- North American Media

“I found it very difficult to interview people this year regarding June fourth anniversary. Several well-known intellectuals, including people who are not considered dissidents, refused to be interviewed. They expressed concern for their own freedom or fear they would not be allowed to travel or to continue their work. Two had already been approached and specifically told not to give interviews on the topic. I had to cancel one interview in person the day before the meeting, since the interviewee told me the police was showing up to every appointment. The person later confirmed that the police showed up at the entrance of the compound as well as at the door at the time we were supposed to meet, and left only after been told I wasn't going.”
-- TV Correspondent"

As for me, I'm actually somewhat curious about what would happen if, say, I might show up at Tiananmen tomorrow. Interestingly, my hiking group had a similar idea and is organizing a "city hike." One of our leaders sent an email earlier today: "The security will be tight, but we are not forbidden to be anywhere tomorrow. Let's make it easy and relaxed! I am sure we will enjoy everything....1st the Tiannamen Square and them we will east. In our way we can visit the Police Museum, a church, the old city wall, and Mosque and if we still have energy and luck, we can see some nice temple."

At the same time, Bob is saying that the talk around the bureau is "if you wind up at Tiananmen that the cops will assume you are reporters and follow, if not hassle you. They advise people to bring ways of leaving quickly that doesn’t depend on subways because the cops can follow you there – ie bicycles etc."

Since I don't bike, my way of leaving quickly will be to walk away. After all, no one said it was illegal to explore a city, right? I also think it's a nice way to pay my respects to the brave students who were gunned down on June 4, 1989. Tomorrow I'll wear black and remember their bravery.

No comments:

Post a Comment