2008 Beijing games - Internal police documents reveal strategy with foreign journalists

    MONTREAL, Aug. 21 /CNW Telbec/ - Although Chinese police have attacked or
manhandled around 10 foreign journalists since the start of the Beijing games,
they were told not to obstruct the international press in directives sent to
police stations at the end of July, of which Reporters Without Borders has
obtained a copy. These directives nonetheless clearly instruct them to
investigate the Chinese who talk to the foreign media, and another directive
on 7 August (also obtained by Reporters Without Borders) orders them to deal
quickly with religious demonstrations.
    "The rules for the foreign press adopted in January 2007 were simple and
explicit - freedom of movement and freedom to interview," Reporters Without
Borders said. "The Chinese police documents obtained by Reporters Without
Borders show that the police were indeed ordered to let foreign journalists
work, but they were also ordered to investigate the Chinese who told them
embarrassing things."
    The press freedom organisation added: "The recent arrests of Chinese who
wanted to stage demonstrations or express themselves during the Olympic Games
were examples of this desire on the part of the authorities to target their
own citizens rather than the thousands of foreign journalists."
    Reporters Without Borders is releasing three Chinese police documents on
official strategy towards the foreign media. While the aim of these documents
is to ensure that the thousands of accredited foreign journalists in Beijing
are free to conduct interviews, they also ask the police to prevent
non-accredited journalists from working and above all to investigate the
Chinese who talk to the press. This suggests there could be reprisals after
the games, when all the journalists have gone.
    Dated 25 July and entitled "Four directives for handling foreign
journalists," the first document asks the police not to block their camera
lenses (1), not to damage their equipment (2), not to confiscate their memory
cards (3) and not to investigate when they are involved in minor offences (4).
    Reporters Without Borders knows of several cases in which these
directives were clearly violated. Uniformed officers physically prevented Hong
Kong journalists from filming a crowd getting out of hand during the sale of
tickets for the games on 25 July. Reporter John Ray of Britain's ITN was
arrested by Beijing police officers while covering a demonstration by
pro-Tibet activists on 13 August. He was forcibly restrained for 20 minutes
although he identified himself as journalist, while his cameraman was
prevented from filming the arrest of the protesters.
    Police destroyed material and equipment of a photographer with the
London-based Guardian newspaper. And in Xinjiang, Associated Press
photographers were forced to delete the photos they had taken.
    The second document is entitled "Eight directives for not intervening
when a foreign journalist is interviewing a Chinese." It tells police not to
intervene if the journalist is accredited (1), if the journalist is accredited
but is not asking political questions (2), if the person agrees to be
interviewed (3), if the journalist asks about a third country (4), at news
conferences given by foreign organisations that have permission (5), if the
journalist is asking about sensitive matters but the interviewee is not
causing people to gather and disrupt public order (6), if the interviewee
talks about subjects such as Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan and Falun Gong or
criticises the Party or government but is not behaving outrageously (7), if a
journalist photographs or films policemen without disrupting their work (8).
    As regards point 7, the directive tells the police to "speak to the
interviewee in accordance with Chinese legislation and to follow and monitor
the journalist." There have been more than ten cases of Chinese being arrested
after trying to alert international public opinion to abuses they have
suffered. Two Beijing women in their late 70s were sentenced to a year of
reeducation through work on 17 August for asking permission to demonstrate
during the games, while Zhang Wei, a former resident of Beijing's Qianmen
district, was arrested on 9 August after complaining to foreign journalists
about the way she was rehoused.
    Reporters Without Borders has seen that, during protests by Christian or
pro-Tibet foreigners in Beijing, the authorities prefer to let police
disguised as young patriots or members of civilian surveillance groups
intervene rather than directly arrest the demonstrators.
    At the same time, the public security department's campaign to intimidate
Beijing human rights activists before the Olympic Games enabled the
authorities to sideline these spokesmen for social, religious and political
demands. More than 40 of them were put under house arrest, forced to leave
Beijing or forced to go into hiding for fear of reprisals.
    The third document is an analysis by the Criminal Affairs Bureau of three
incidents involving pro-Tibet activists, Christians and a delinquent.
Directives tell the police that the priority is to carry out a thorough
investigation and avoid bad publicity. The Criminal Affairs Bureau recommends
arresting foreign demonstrators and deporting them as quickly as possible. The
police are told to do everything possible to "depoliticise" their actions by
stressing the public order consequences to the public.
    Point 4 of the directives tells the Beijing police to deal with
"religious cases as quickly as possible." They are told to "keep the crowd at
a distance, devise all sorts of ploys to defuse the situation and immediately
inform the Religious Affairs Department."

For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, Executive Director,
Reporters Without Borders Canada, (514) 521-4111, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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