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Publications Censored In China, for All History Is Political (cont’d)

Posted by Author on January 25, 2007

By Kent Ewing, The Asia Times, Jan 26, 2007-

(cont’d)

In a speech accepting the PEN award, Zhang said that while life for intellectuals is much better in China today than during her father’s time, the country’s breakneck economic growth poses a new threat to its people: “The situation now is very different. Intellectuals are living better, and they can express their own voices up to a point.

“But there is now another situation – many people are more interested in pursuing material [wealth] rather than dispassionately understanding the depth of humanity and the truth of life … We seem to have come out from one kind of totalitarianism, and we turned off and walked right under another form of domination.”

In a rare show of outrage for a Chinese author, Zhang issued a 1,000-word attack on the GAPP after the ban of her most recent book, an account of seven Peking opera stars who were friends of her family. She told the Post that the ban “infringed my personal rights” of freedom of expression and publication.

The other most recently banned titles represent an interesting cross-section of China’s bureaucratic paranoia – from I Object: The Road to Politics by a People’s Congress Member, journalist Zhu Ling’s account of peasant activist Yao Lifa’s long struggle to bring fair, democratic elections to a local legislature in Hubei province, to Hu Fayun’s This Is How It Goes@SARS.com, the story of a woman whose obsession with the Internet during the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) crisis jeopardizes her relationship with a local politician.

This week the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television took the crusade for political correctness even further, ordering satellite television networks to show only “ethically inspiring  dramas” during prime time.

The order, which affects 48 national channels, will be in force for eight months, starting in February. It prohibits prime-time airing of imported cartoons and dramas, programs involving crime, sex, divorce or legal cases, and dramas in local dialects or even local accents.

With the censors’ ambit spreading so far and wide, analysts point to one clear message: Chinese leaders want to see nothing in the media that could undermine President Hu Jintao’s vision of a “harmonious society” in the run-up to the CCP’s 17th congress this autumn. The congress is the first to be chaired by Hu, and no one is allowed to spoil the party.

Hu took over the presidency from Jiang Zemin in 2003 and is also the party’s general secretary and head of the army. The congress, which will witness substantial changes in leadership posts and set the course for the country’s development over the next five years, is expected to be a crowning moment for him.

Ironically, when Hu assumed the presidency touted as a reformer, there was hope of a new openness toward the media. Indeed, in tandem with his call for better economic management, the new president encouraged journalists to play a more aggressive watchdog role in society by reporting on the epidemic of corruption and fraud that has become a defining characteristic of Chinese bureaucracy.

But the new attitude was short-lived. According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, Hu has presided over “a major crackdown on the media”.

That crackdown attracted international condemnation last year with the jailing of New York Times researcher Zhao Yan and the chief China correspondent for Singapore’s Straits Times, Ching Cheong. Zhao was sentenced to three years in prison on what was widely considered a trumped-up charge of fraud, and Ching was jailed for five years for selling state secrets to Taiwan in a verdict that was met with disbelief by many of his fellow journalists.

Beijing’s clampdown on editorial staff who work for local media has attracted less attention but is no less real.

Last year, editors were sacked from three newspapers that dared to defy the censors’ dictates – the Beijing News, the Southern Metropolis News and the Public Interest Times – and party propagandists also temporarily closed Bingdian, a lively four-page weekly supplement to the state-run China Youth Daily, because of its coverage of controversial issues.

In addition, the popular Beijing-based weekly newsmagazine Lifeweek received a reprimand from the Propaganda Department for “defiance” of the party mandate not to cover politically sensitive events. While the department did not specify which event Lifeweek was “guilty” of covering, it’s a fair bet the censure was related to the magazine’s October 30 cover story on the 30th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution, which featured a front-page photo of Jiang Qing, Mao’s wife and one of the notorious Gang of Four who led the long and bloody purge.

Authorities have also shut down Internet blogs and chat forums that have crossed the censors’ line.

It’s no surprise that Reporters Without Borders ranked China 159th out of 167 countries in its world press-freedom index last year. And while the country has promised to grant foreign journalists unprecedented freedom of travel and coverage when China hosts the Summer Olympic Games in 2008, that promise means nothing to Chinese journalists, bloggers and authors who continue to be muzzled.

For a country that likes to lecture Japan and other nations about facing up to their history, China still has a deep aversion to reckoning with its own.  (END)

– Kent Ewing is a teacher and writer at Hong Kong International School. He can be reached at kewing@hkis.edu.hk .

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original repot The Asia Times

2 Responses to “Publications Censored In China, for All History Is Political (cont’d)”

  1. Smoky said

    I think freedom for everyone is a treasure deserved. I am truly impressed by the changes happening in China. However, freedom does come with responsibilities and consequences.

    Thank you,

    Thai

  2. Smoky said

    I am not too sure I agree with the blockage of free press. I feel all should be able to speak their minds.

    Thanks,

    Smoky

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