China - Disturbing new regulations prior to Olympic Games, increased control in Sichuan



    MONTREAL, June 10 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders is alarmed by
the introduction of new rules aimed at reinforcing controls over Chinese
"fixers" working for foreign journalists and over all foreigners visiting
China during the Olympic Games. The organisation also condemns an increase in
police controls of foreign journalists trying to cover protests by parents
whose children were killed when schools collapsed in the Sichuan earthquake.
    "Any hope of seeing China calmly open up ahead of the Olympic Games is
gradually vanishing," Reporters Without Borders said. "The authorities have
introduced regulations hostile to foreigners, who are suspected of wanted to
disrupt the games, and are trying to impose greater controls on Chinese
citizens working for foreign reporters. And, on the Propaganda Department's
initiative, the government is restricting the work of the Chinese and
international press in Sichuan."
    "These measures, just two months ahead of the inauguration of the Beijing
games, are bordering on paranoia and are a long way from the One World, One
Dream slogan. We urge the International Olympic Committee to put pressure on
the government to rescind some of these provisions and to ensure that the
international press can work freely in Sichuan."
    Reporters Without Borders added: "So far, the IOC has not reacted to
these archaic regulations, preferring to issue a memo in May reminding
national Olympic committees that their athletes should under no circumstances
demonstrate at Olympic sites."

    Control of Chinese fixers

    Chinese citizens working for foreign news media must now comply with new
rules designed to get them to register with the authorities. Reporters Without
Borders has obtained a copy of the new rules, which were distributed by the
CIECCO, a state entity that is supposed to help foreign companies, including
news media, to find Chinese employees.
    The Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) has been
insisting since January 2007 that the foreign media recruit professionals
chosen by official intermediaries as translators. The latest rules want all
Chinese working for the foreign media to be registered and suggest that the
authorities should "select and name appropriate candidates" for the foreign
media.
    If foreign journalists want to propose their own candidates, they must
provide an ID, a curriculum vitae, evidence of no criminal record and a
medical certificate. And a contract must be signed between employer and
employee.
    The Foreign Correspondents Club of China told Reporters Without Borders
that "hiring and registering assistants through government service agencies
potentially increases bureaucracy, expense and oversight by the authorities."
The FCCC hopes the foreign media will eventually be able to hire Chinese as
journalists, photographers or cameramen, but for the time being that is not
allowed.
    Reporters Without Borders has also learned of a directive issued by the
BOCOG media centre's visa division telling journalists to submit precise
information about coverage plans in China, including the places they want to
visit and the people they want to interview, in order to obtain a J-2 visa,
which is for media personnel who want to arrive before the 8 August start of
the games. The BOCOG also requires a letter from an employer, which
effectively eliminates freelancers.
    These new provisions come at a time when the issuing of multiple-entry
visas is being restricted and obtaining tourist or business visas is taking
much longer, even through Hong Kong. The government refuses to explain this
tougher policy, which seems to be linked to fear of demonstrations during the
games.

    Call to order for foreigners

    The BOCOG issued a set of guidelines for foreigners visiting the games on
2 June. In a question-and-answer format and so far only in Chinese, the
guidelines tell foreigners they "must respect Chinese laws while in China and
must not harm China's national security or damage the social order."
    They say "terrorists," sex workers, drug traffickers, people suffering
from AIDS or tuberculosis and "subversives" are banned from entering China.
Some of the guidelines directly target those who would like to demonstrate
during the games. "Public gatherings, marches and demonstrations cannot take
place without prior permission from the police." They also restrict freedom of
opinion, forbidding foreigners from bringing with them documents, disks or
audio recordings critical of China.

    Media obstructed in Sichuan

    Because of the anger of the parents of children killed in schools in
Sichuan, the authorities have tended to obstruct the work of the foreign media
in the province. On 6 June, twoAgence France-Presse journalists were prevented
from entered Wufu, a city where demonstrations took place after a primary
school collapsed.
    Foreign reporters were briefly detained and expelled on 5 June from
Juyuan and Hanwang, two towns where schools collapsed. Photographers were
removed from a demonstration by about 100 parents in Dujiangyan on 3 June, and
a reporter and photographer from the Japanese news agency Kyodo were detained
for several hours. According to the FCCC, two Dutch journalists were stopped
by the police when they tried to go to Dujiangyan.
    The Chinese press has been forbidden to cover the collapsed schools story
freely. Chinese journalists told the New York Times that the order came from
Beijing. The website of the Hong Kong-based China Media Project
(http://cmp.hku.hk/) reported that the Guangdong province Communist Party's
propaganda ordered the local media to pull their journalists out of Sichuan.
The site also reported that Li Changchun, the Communist Party's propaganda
chief, went to Sichuan.
    The public security department has been told to put a stop to the
"illegal gatherings" and to pressure the families of victims to stop talking
to the foreign press. State media propaganda continues to praise the
government's efforts. State-owned CCTV's website even went so far as to
portray a demonstration in homage to the victims of the Tiananmen Square
massacre of 4 June 1989 as a homage to the victims of the 12 May earthquake.
    Finally, BOCOG intransigence on security issues is giving rise to tension
with international TV stations that acquired broadcasting rights. The
Associated Press reported on 8 June that there were angry tensions at a
meeting in Beijing at the end of May between the BOCOG, the IOC and
international TV stations over China's refusal to permit live coverage of
events in certain places such as Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City, and
delays in granting permission for broadcast equipment.




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)
521-7771, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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