Tag Archives: journalism

Harrowing tale of a jailed reporter assistant

16 Jan

The new year’s first post on this blog is about the imprisonment of a Chinese assistant to a German reporter in Beijing. The reporter wrote a detailed, disturbing account of the events that led up to her assistant Miao’s detention, which shows how arbitrary and unpredictable the mainland’s legal system are. The reporter held off on writing the story for 12 weeks because she thought this would help Miao’s situation such as get her a release. It didn’t as she continues to be held without being given regular access to visitors or a lawyer.
Miao was imprisoned in October after trying to attend an event in Beijing held in support of the Occupy movement in Hong Kong. The reporter and Miao’s family tried to find her but after finding her prison, were refused access to her from the authorities. The authorities then called the reporter in several times to interrogate her about Miao, using intimidation and deception to get her to confess to being a spy. The authorities keep at it, calling her up frequently to come in to talk, shouting, issuing threats, and attempting to get her to sign “agreements” written only in Chinese. Eventually the reporter leaves China deeply worried, while Miao languishes in jail.
This is a striking reminder that press freedom and true rule of law are both weak in China. Miao was actually one of over 100 Chinese rounded up for expressing support for the Occupy movement.

Some very telling quotes from the article:

“”When lawmakers make laws, they do it for their own interests and not because they are concerned about those of the public.”
“Do the security authorities have to announce that they are invoking an exception or get it authorized?”
“No,” Zhou [Miao’s lawyer] responds. In principle, he continues, the security apparatus can find an exception clause for every law.

“The more I think about it, the clearer it is: No one can tell if reporting on it will do any good. This is a state ruled by arbitrariness. The agonizing uncertainty I’m feeling is intentional.”

Now I’m starting to experience firsthand something that I’ve read a lot about: their skill at twisting the meaning of things. They might have enough material on me. They’ve been eavesdropping on me for four year – on my phone, in my apartment.

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Organ harvesting of prisoners set to end

5 Dec

China said this week it will end the practice of organ harvesting from executed prisoners by January 1 next year, which is a huge step because there has been a lot of troubling allegations and research about this practice, such as this disturbing report on organ harvesting put out by VICE this week as well.
Basically, very few people in China donate organs (as in other countries) so virtually all organs for transplant have been taken from tens of thousands, maybe more, executed prisoners. The organ transplant trade is so rampant that foreigners even go to China to get organs, basically medical organ tourism.
What’s especially disturbing is the sinister possibility that many of these prisoners may have been alive when their organs were taken, since fresh organs taken from a live person are more efficient than those taken from a dead person, and killed afterwards. Chinese authorities deny this – China also denied harvesting organs from dead prisoners up to a few years ago – but a human rights lawyer, a former Canadian MP and a journalist strongly believe that China has and is continuing to do this.
There are some measures taken by countries such as Israel banning its nationals from traveling to China to receive organs while the EU has advised its citizens not to do the same.
If China does end the practice of taking organs from executed prisoners next year as it stated, that will be good, but there remains some strong skepticism and it will be necessary to see how this issue plays out and how responsible China will be.

Longform stories of the year, and top slogans

26 Dec

If you like longform stories and you like reading about China, the Shanghaiist has the perfect list for you. The “10 best longform stories of 2013” include features on a “black jail” guard, the problems with traditional Chinese medicine, and the sad fate of an 85-year-old gynaecologist who exposed an AIDS scandal in the 1990s.

The BBC lists important official slogans that have been used to describe major goals in China in the past 57 years. One of these- “改革开放” (gaige kaifang) – was for Deng Xiaoping’s reform and opening up that started in 1978 and is also used by Chinese to refer to the event. Slogans are popular because they’re short and simple, and they resemble traditional Chinese proverbs or 成語 (chengyu), which are often short as well.

Murky media scandal

11 Nov

A major media controversy unfolded last month when a Guangzhou-based investigative journalist was suddenly arrested by police and taken to another province. His newspaper responded by printing an appeal for his release on its front page for two consecutive days, a very bold step that probably wouldn’t have passed official censorship. This journalist had been reporting on a big construction machinery maker and was being charged for damaging the reputation of this company. Yet what happened afterward was an even bigger shock – the journalist appeared on CCTV, the national broadcaster, and confessed to having written fabricated accusations in his articles about that company in exchange for bribes, presumably from the company’s rivals. It was a major blow to journalism and the reporter’s newspaper, which previously had gotten a lot of sympathy. This brought to mind events in the recent past in China when reporters had taken money from businesses not to report bad news. If the reporter’s confessions were true, it really is a serious setback to journalism in the mainland, not to mention his and his paper’s reputations. But one can’t help harboring some cynicism here – would a reporter at a respectable newspaper really write a series of articles containing completely false information just for money? What if the newspaper’s front-page appeals had so unnerved the authorities that they took steps to cause the reversal and make the reporter confess. On the other hand, if the newspaper was bold enough to publish front-page appeals and was certain about its reporter’s integrity in his articles, wouldn’t they have been able to mount a protest instead of seemingly meekly accepting the reporter’s “confession”?