In my last article on China and journalism, I exposed how the communist party of China bullies academics into reporting only the ‘good’ about China and not the bad.
By using the power to approve and reject visas, Beijing often refuses to grant professors the right to enter China if they create a negative viewpoint about China in any way.
As a result of this treatment, academicians have seen their careers threatened and they’ve been ostracized. More disturbing that that has been the chilling effect that these actions have had on truthful reporting about China and the communist party (1).
Unfortunately it’s not only academicians that have been singled out, but reporters as well. Beijing has been actively seeking to clamp down on foreign reporting from China, while increasing the presence of theirreporters abroad.
Abuse of Foreign Journalists in China
I reported here that a few months ago a German TV crew was kidnapped in a small Chinese town while attempting to film a story about pollution.
The Germans were held captive for nine hours as the local Chinese yelled, “Kill foreign spies!” (2)
As harrowing as this event was, it’s is symptomatic of a larger malady-the Chinese will do what it takes to keep the truth from getting out.
Aside from the kidnapping, the Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC) has also reported the following events for the past four months:
–> July 28th, a journalist from Japan’s Asahi Shimbun was beaten by police while covering a riot/demonstration. His equipment was taken and not returned.
–> August 10th a reporter for a Hong Kong’s Television station was assaulted by plain clothes police as he filmed members of the public being arrested outside of the local courthouse.
–> August 11th, the German crew mentioned above was kidnapped and detained for nine hours.
–> August 13th, reporters from the USA and Poland were harassed and intimidated by three cars filled with eight men while attempting to report from Ordos, China.
In another attempt at intimidating the media, Beijing has effectively expelled the American journalist Melissa Chan (3), who was known for her hard-hitting style.
Unsurprisingly, Ms Chan was behind several great pieces such as exposing Chinese white elephant “ghost towns”, which speak to Beijing’s waste of resources, as well as reporting on black jails and forced detention in China. Her last big piece exposed the story of a woman who sought to find the whereabouts of her daughter who was forcibly sterilized and stuffed into an illegal “black jail”. (4)
The Chinese government and China apologists are quick to point out that recent events are nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction to the once-a-decade leadership handover. These people contend that the expulsion of the journalist and attacks on her peers are merely an outlier, and do not portend anything beyond that.
Others, however, do not agree. In a society controlled by a dictatorial regime whose power is predicated on “near-infallibility”, speaking out about the communist party is costly (5). As a result of Beijing’s crackdown on the truth, reporting from China is the worst it has been in at least a decade, if not longer. (6)
China’s communist Party, a Modern Day Mafia
Why is it that Beijing forces us to comply? What is underlying their fear? Could it be that China’s communist party is a modern day mafia, as proposed by Carsten Holz? (8)
“Call it what it is, mafia. Our use of language to conform to the image the Party wishes to project is pervasive. Would the description of a secret society characterized by an attitude of popular hostility to law and government not properly describe the secrecy of the Party’s operations, its supremacy above the law and its total control of government? In Websters New World College Dictionary, this is the definition of a mafia.
We speak of the Chinese government without further qualification when more than 95% of the leadership cadres are Party members, key decisions are reached by leadership cadres in their function as members of Party work committees…”
Mr Holz continues by explaining that all of China’s main governmental entities are staffed by members of the communist party.
“The Personnel Ministry is virtually identical to the staff of the Party Organization Department, the staff of the Supervision Ministry is virtually identical to the staff of the Party Disciplinary Commission, and the staff of the PRC Central Military Commission is usually 100% identical to the staff of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Military Commission.” (9)
The massive presence of the communist party in all governmental organs has relegated the act of governance a ruse by conventional standards.
Far from being a well-functioning body, the communist party is a dictatorial regime that is above the law and has subjugated its use to achieve party goals, irrespective of what may be good for the commoner. As Mr Holz pointed out, were we to be honest in our discourse about governance in China, the term ‘mafia’ would be more useful than any other.
And just like the mafia, Beijing is seeking silence about the truth.
Truth in Reporting? Not In China.
The good news for the Chinese is that while Americans are being intimidated and kicked out of China, the Chinese have increased the presence of their reporters in the USA by 25%.
That’s right, while we are forced to hide behind pen-names and blogs hidden behind VPNs, the communists in China have sent over 800 reporters into the USA. As a matter of fact, the Chinese communists have just opened up a 100 person office in New York city.
Isn’t it great to know that Chinese can report from the USA with all the requisite freedoms, at the same time that China maintains its brutal crackdowns on reportage within its own country?
I would bet those Chinese reporters cannot believe their luck and what they can do while on American soil. After all, according to Reporters Without Borders, China ranks as the 174th most restrictive country for reporters out of 17,910 !
Truth in reporting is good, and allowing Chinese journalists to report from the U.S. is not a bad thing per se, but a little reciprocity would be nice. How does our government justify the fact that we are systematically prohibited from reporting on news that impacts the lives of Americans, while the door to free reporting is wide open to the Chinese?
It would seem as if our doors are wide open, while over thirty percent of American reporters are finding it extremely difficult to obtain visas to live and report in China.
Even more troublesome is that fact that it is common knowledge that the communist party has its hands in all media, and leverages its reporters in other countries in order to gather sensitive information – in other words, to spy on foreign soil.
It has been reported that Chinese media outlets are expected to and regularly spy for “the motherland” (11). It has also been shown that the Chinese media are not only using Chinese citizens, but also recruiting foreign reporters as well (12). Rather than being engaged in conventional reporting as we know it, the Chinese have turned reporting into a ‘spy game’.
Parity in Reporting
Not only are the Chinese opening up offices in New York city and increasing their presence across the nation, but they are also allowed access to some of America’s most sensitive areas. Did you know, for instance, that the communist controlled CCTV has embedded journalists with the US Navy? Yes it is true.
Not only are the communists blocking American reporters from telling the truth in China and to undertake basic journalistic research about China, but they have integrated themselves into our own military as well. (13)
China apologists would claim that it is good to allow the Chinese to see democracy in action, which may be true. However, the problem with that logic is that the Chinese are not reporting on democracy in action in a truthful way back in China. Chinese reporters are simply engaged in intelligence gathering, and supporting the communist agenda while abroad.
If you find China’s anti-foreign reporter attitude troublesome, then you are not alone.
Dana Rohrbacher introduced a bill mandating parity between US visas issued to Chinese journalists and visas that China grants to US reporters (14)(15).
In order to understand how stifling the Chinese are of American reporters, if Ms. Rohrabacher’s bill were to be passed, it would have effectively expelled 99% of Chinese media from the US.
Apologists would claim that such an act would cause a backlash against US reporters abroad. This should be of little concern, however, since the communists have already been stifling foreign reporters every step of the way.
When posed with the question about retaliation to such a bill by Beijing, Ms. Rohrabacher responded:
“Do you not stand up to a gangster who is murdering guys in the neighborhood because you’re afraid that might get them angry—while he goes on murdering more people?” (16)
References & Image Credits:
1. The Diplomat
2. A special SWAT force showed up to liberate the reporters but took possession of their tapes and refused to return them.
3. Ms.Chan was a well-respected journalist who worked for Al-Jazeera news.
4. LA Times
5. Kansas City
6. Kansas City
11. The New American
14. Business Week
15. Ms. Rohrbacher was addressing the issue of problems in reporting by employees of Voice of America, a government backed news source.
16. Business Week
17. University of Southern California
18. IB Times
19. The Hollywood Reporter
20. Global Voices