The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China deplores the restrictions on journalists attempting to cover the 20th anniversary of the military crackdown on Tiananmen Square protestors in 1989.
Contrary to the spirit of state reporting regulations, the police have prevented at least four TV crews from entering the square and harassed a reporter who interviewed the mothers of the victims.
The club has received reports of assistants being called in for lengthy questioning, sources coming under heavy surveillance, university students being interrogated after talking to journalists, and at least one journalist receiving a warning from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
We have also heard reports of tighter censoring of websites, publications and TV channels, such as the BBC.
“First Tibet, then Sichuan, now Tiananmen. For the third time this year, the state’s promises of media openness have been compromised by a politically sensitive anniversary,” said club president Jonathan Watts. “The FCCC calls on the authorities to abide to allow journalists to do their jobs and to cease intimidation of Chinese citizens who exercise their constitutional right to express their opinion to reporters.”
Edited outlines of three recent cases follow. For more details, see Incident Reports.
1) 05/29/09 Cameraman Detained, Accused in Tiananmen Square
“I planned to do a stand-up in Tiananmen Square. It should’ve taken a maximum of ten minutes. Three hours later we were sent home from the police station, without the stand-up, having been falsely accused of creating an incident. “This is the first time I’ve had a chorus of 30 plain clothes officers say they saw something that didn’t happen. That means they can frame foreign journalists for doing things we didn’t do.”
2) 05/28/09 TV Crew Barred from Tiananmen
“Our TV crew was stopped at security and not allowed to enter Tiananmen Square to film. We were told there was a new regulation. The crew asked to see it, but the authorities declined.”
3) 05/31/09 TV Reporters Detained, Interviewees Questioned.
“In the morning we went to interview students in front Beida University. Seven minutes after we started five police cars arrived and surrounded us. We drove around the block and passed the same spot and saw that all the students we had interviewed were being questioned. Two unofficial cars followed us for half an hour. In the afternoon when we were leaving the compound where we interviewed three Tiananmen Mothers in their home (they are 24/24 shadowed by policemen in plain clothes) we were intercepted by a group of 10 policemen, uniformed and plainclothes. We were filmed and they asked us to show us documents and passports. As the cameraman could not produce his passport we were taken away to a local office and questioned for two hours before we could leave. The next day police came to my apartment– 23 hours later– to check documents and my and my family’s passports.