I. Summary

The run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games was supposed to be the start of a new era of media freedom in China. 

Both the Chinese government and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) touted these Games as an historic catalyst for wider openness for the one-party state. The Chinese government’s 2001 bid to host the 2008 Olympics was successful in part because China pledged to improve media freedom and the IOC believed that international attention to China would help improve the human rights situation. Indeed, in January 2007, the Chinese government adopted new temporary regulations designed to allow foreign journalists to travel freely across China and speak with any consenting interviewee. 

As this report shows, the gap between government rhetoric and reality for foreign journalists remains considerable. Their working conditions today, while improved in some respects, have deteriorated in other areas, dramatically in the case of Tibet. The result is that during a period when reporting freedoms for foreign journalists in China should be at an all-time high, correspondents face severe difficulties in accessing “forbidden zones”—geographical areas and topics which the Chinese government considers “sensitive” and thus off-limits to foreign media. An important consequence of the continuing barriers is that there are key events and trends in China that cannot be covered in detail or at all, to the detriment of Chinese citizens and all who are concerned in the often-dislocating social and economic changes underway in the country.

While this report focuses on foreign journalists, it must be noted that Chinese journalists, who already operate under far greater constraints, are being subject to further controls in the countdown to the 2008 Olympic Games. In late 2007, the Central Publicity Department issued a notice which instructed Chinese journalists ahead of the Olympics to avoid topics which generate “unfavorable” publicity in the foreign media, and to be extremely careful in reporting about subjects including air quality, food safety, the Olympic torch relay, and the Paralympics; which occur in Beijing in September 2008.1 In June, President Hu Jintao urged China’s domestic media to “maintain strict propaganda discipline...and properly guard the gate and manage the extent [of reporting] on major, sensitive and hot topics.”2

Several foreign correspondents told Human Rights Watch that the temporary regulations guaranteeing media freedom have in some ways improved their ability to report. Specifically, some say that in the first year the regulations were in effect, access to high-profile dissidents, human rights activists and sources in general improved, and they enjoyed greater mobility. Some correspondents have also praised China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) for actively intervening in and resolving a number of cases in which journalists were harassed, detained, and intimidated by government officials or security forces. Some correspondents told Human Rights Watch that prior to the crackdown on Tibet in March 2008, the temporary regulations had helped put an end to once-routine practices such as late night hotel visits by officials to journalists on reporting trips outside of Beijing and Shanghai, which were designed to pressure reporters to leave the area as soon as possible.

Yet many foreign correspondents we spoke with say that conditions have worsened in some areas over the past year. Nearly all say that journalists today continue to face significant obstacles whenever the issues on which they wish to report are deemed “sensitive” by central or local authorities. The ongoing closure of Tibet to foreign journalists offers the starkest illustration of this point.

This report details troubling developments on a number of fronts over the past year. It shows that, in some cases, officials have attempted to extort positive coverage from journalists by threatening to withhold their accreditation to cover the Olympics.  It also documents cases of intimidation of foreign journalists’ sources—less visible and considerably more vulnerable targets than the journalists themselves—and presents evidence suggesting that such intimidation is on the increase.  

The report also offers the most detailed account to date of how, following unprecedented protests in Tibet in March, security forces moved swiftly to remove journalists from Tibetan areas and keep other foreign journalists from entering. On June 26, the government announced that Tibet was officially reopened to foreign media “in line with previous procedure”3—an onerous, time-consuming application process which rarely results in permission to visit Tibet. That means foreign journalists will likely remain unable to determine what prompted the unrest or to verify the numbers of those killed, injured, or arrested in the biggest government crackdown since the June 1989 Tiananmen Massacre. It also examines the government’s failure to respond to anonymous death threats against several foreign correspondents and their families, part of a nationalist backlash against perceived bias in western media coverage of Tibet that was fed by state-run media.4

Finally, the report examines three specific topics that are largely no-go zones for foreign journalists today: the plight of petitioners (citizens from the countryside who come to Beijing seeking legal redress for abuses by local officials), protests and demonstrations not sanctioned by the government, and interviews with high profile dissidents and human rights activists. 

The result of the continuing and in some areas intensifying restrictions on media freedom is that crucially important issues, such as protest and dissent, go largely unreported, leaving Chinese citizens and people all over the world without reliable information about what is actually happening inside China. In part because the IOC has been unwilling to voice concerns publicly over these developments, hopes for improvements in 2008 appear increasingly faint. 

The government has sought to deflect criticism of its failure to deliver on its media freedom commitments by telling foreign journalists to “stop complaining” about violations of the temporary regulations5 and alleging correspondents attract justifiable interference from government officials and security officials because they “violated professional morality, distorted facts or even fabricated news.”6 There is no evidence for these claims. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ (MOFA) justification for closing Tibetan areas to correspondents since mid-March has ranged from a claim that unspecified laws or regulations allow the government to supersede the temporary regulations to vague warnings of threats to journalists “safety” and “security.”

The Chinese government has been internationally praised for its relative openness to the domestic and foreign press in the wake of the massive earthquake in Sichuan province on May 12, 2008. Foreign correspondents have reported mixed experiences trying to cover the quake—on June 3, police “forcibly dragged” an Associated Press reporter and two photographers away from the scene of a public protest by parents of student victims of the quake in the Sichuan town of Dujiangyan,7 while other foreign correspondents had no trouble accessing and reporting from the same town.   Since June 2, 2008, the Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC) has documented at least nine incidents in which correspondents in the Sichuan quake zone have been “manhandled,” “detained,” or “forced to write self-criticisms” while attempting to report.8 

In addition, the Central Publicity Department (formerly named the Central Propaganda Department in English) reportedly issued an edict within hours of the earthquake in an effort to ban domestic media from sending reporters to the disaster zone. When reporters already en route to the disaster zone began filing reports immediately upon arrival,9 the Chinese Communist Party’s politburo standing committee instead stipulated that domestic media coverage of the disaster “uphold unity and encourage stability” and emphasize “positive propaganda.”10 In late May, the Central Publicity Department instructed Chinese media to reduce coverage of the collapse of schools in the earthquake zone which killed thousands of students.11  While the government should be praised for the instances in which it allowed correspondents free access, it is too soon to declare a major victory for media freedom in China.

Human Rights Watch remains concerned that violations of the temporary regulations and state-sanctioned vilification of foreign journalists in China could “poison the pre-Games atmosphere for”12 the estimated 30,000 foreign journalists13 who will cover the Beijing Olympics. Unless Chinese government practices change, the ongoing official obstruction of independent reporting by foreign journalists and public hostility toward foreign media may prompt correspondents to opt for the relative safety and predictability of state-organized media tours which provide sterile, government-approved depictions of China.

Such an outcome would represent a betrayal of both the Chinese government’s commitments to the IOC of expanded media freedom during the 2008 Games as well its assurances to the international community that hosting the 2008 Olympics in Beijing would help promote the development of human rights across China. Perhaps worst of all, it would mean that most international coverage of China did not address many of the country’s most compelling, difficult issues.

Key Recommendations

Human Rights Watch urges the Chinese government to:

  • Ensure that the temporary regulations on media freedom for foreign journalists are fully respected in the period before they officially expire on October 17, 2008.

  • Implement the June 26 MOFA commitment  to reopen to foreign journalists the Tibet Autonomous Region and grant unrestricted access to Tibetan communities in the neighboring provinces of Gansu, Sichuan, Qinghai, and Yunnan.

  • Investigate death threats made against more than 10 accredited correspondents in China since March 14, and ensure their safety at a time when state-media reports on alleged foreign media “bias” towards China has inflamed public anger toward foreign journalists in China.

  • Commit to permanently extending the temporary regulations freedoms after October 17, 2008.

  • Human Rights Watch urges the IOC to:

  • Establish a 24-hour hotline in Beijing for foreign journalists to report violations of media freedom during the August 2008 Olympics, directly inform the foreign ministry of these incidents and demand their speedy investigation.

  • Publicly press the Chinese government to uphold the temporary regulations.

  • Amend the criteria for Olympic host city selection in order to ensure that, consistent with Olympic Charter promises to uphold “universal fundamental ethical principles” and “human dignity,” potential hosts’ human rights records be made an explicit factor in decisions.   

  • Create an IOC standing committee on human rights as a long-term mechanism to incorporate human rights standards into the Olympics.

  • These measures are essential to ensure freedom of expression and the safety of the tens of thousands of journalists expected to cover the 2008 Beijing Games. They are also essential to preserve the reputation of the Olympics and prevent repetition at future games of the IOC’s failure to effectively monitor and ensure implementation of host country human rights pledges.


    Human Rights Watch conducted research for this report in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou between December 2007 and January 2008, and in follow-up interviews through June 2008. We spoke with a wide variety of sources in China’s foreign media community, including photographers, television journalists, and text reporters. These correspondents detailed their experiences of being harassed, detained, and intimidated in direct violation of the temporary regulations on reporting rights for foreign journalists. As noted below, the report also draws on Chinese government documents and news stories in domestic and international media.

    The scope of this study is necessarily limited by constraints imposed by the Chinese government, which does not welcome research by international human rights organizations. In most cases, interviews were conducted under the condition of strict anonymity due to correspondents’ concerns about their employers’ internal regulations on public statements regarding their work, as well as fears of possible retribution from the Chinese government. A handful of correspondents whose employers do allow them to speak on the record about their work bravely ignored the risk of possible reprisals from Chinese government agencies and went on the record with their comments.

    The direct interviews that Human Rights Watch was able to conduct for this report, while limited, are fully consistent with other research findings by other nongovernmental organizations, including the Foreign Correspondents Club of China, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Reporters Without Borders; indicating that the problems described here are systemic, likely affecting hundreds of foreign correspondents each year.

    II. Background: Longstanding Media Freedom Constraints in China

    [Self-censorship] is a lofty leadership art, and a key to success.14

    —Yang Weiguang (杨伟光), former head of state broadcaster China Central Television, November 10, 2007.

    Constraints on Media Freedom

    Although Article 35 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China explicitly guarantees “freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and demonstration,” China’s domestic media has for decades been subject to strict government controls which ensure that reporting falls within the boundaries of the official propaganda line.

    Official Chinese statistics indicate that as of February 2006, the domestic media landscape included 2,000 newspapers, over 8,000 magazines, 282 radio stations, and 374 TV stations.15 But despite the volume and variety of China’s media outlets, they remain part of a state-owned-and-controlled system designed to ensure positive news coverage of the government and the ruling Chinese Communist Party. 

    The Chinese government’s guidelines on taboo topics, which are officially deemed as “sensitive” or min-gan (敏感), strictly determine editorial content. The official Publicity Department sends weekly faxes to domestic media outlets stipulating the latest coverage restrictions. Those restrictions typically are framed in terms of avoiding issues potentially disruptive of the “social stability” goals of the Chinese government.16 Notable past examples include the massive death toll of Hebei province’s Tangshan earthquake in July 1976, which journalists were forbidden from disclosing for more than three years,17 and the early stages of China’s outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, in 2002-2003, coverage of which government officials blocked.18 These constraints—imposed to avoid politically embarrassing controversy rather than for reasons of public safety, public order or national security; violate Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 19.2 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights,19 which China has signed, but not ratified. The Central Publicity Bureau’s censorship practices also violate sections of the United Nation’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles concerning the Contribution of the Mass Media to Strengthening Peace and International Understanding, to the Promotion of Human Rights and to Countering Racialism, Apartheid and Incitement to War.20

    The government deploys various techniques to control the media. In addition to the faxes discussed above, journalists’ computer terminals at China’s national television broadcaster, China Central Television (CCTV), are linked to an electronic notification system which automatically notifies journalists of the most recently updated list of issues which are deemed inappropriate for news coverage.21 In 2007 and early 2008, China Central Television (CCTV) alone restricted coverage of stories ranging from the death of a pregnant migrant worker in December after she was denied medical treatment due to a lack of money to pay doctors, to reports that same month that the Chinese government had imposed a ban on the showing of American movies in Chinese theaters, to the death of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in January 2008.22

    Articles are thoroughly vetted, especially if they focus on events important to the ruling Chinese Communist Party, such as the annual meeting of China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC). A handbook obtained by Reuters for Chinese journalists covering the NPC session in March 2008 laid bare the pressure on journalists to carefully script news coverage of the event in line with Central Publicity Department dictates:23 “Uphold the system of submitting articles for approval. The responsible propaganda official must sign off on articles planned for submission.”24

    Those who try to move beyond those confines face a variety of sanctions, ranging from physical abuse to job loss. In August 2007, a group of five Chinese journalists, including a reporter from the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece, The People’s Daily, were attacked by unidentified thugs while interviewing relatives of the victims of central Henan province’s Fenghuang bridge collapse, in which 34 people died. When police finally arrived on the scene, they ignored the assailants and instead detained the journalists.25 Investigative reporter Pang Jiaoming of the China Economic Times (中國經濟時報) was dismissed in October 2007 at the demand of the Central Publicity Department for publishing embarrassing reports about the conditions of China’s railway infrastructure ahead of the “sensitive” Chinese Communist Party’s 17th National Congress.26 Freelance reporter Lu Gengsong was sentenced to four years in prison in February 2008 on charges of “inciting subversion” for stories he had written for overseas websites on corruption and the trial of a Chinese human rights activist.27 At least 26 Chinese journalists are in prison due to their work, many on ambiguous charges including “revealing state secrets” and “inciting subversion,” Committee for the Protection of Journalists statistics indicate.28

    As a result, the majority of Chinese journalists produce news stories which reflect the safe reporting limits permitted by the system within which they operate. A Canadian journalist employed from April 2007-April 2008 at the English-language China Daily, the Chinese government’s flagship publication for foreign readers, described self-censorship as the norm among his Chinese colleagues. “Reporters here simply know what they can and cannot write—and they don’t challenge those limitations. Change isn’t coming from the bottom and certainly isn’t coming from the top.”29

    Chang Ping, a former editor and columnist of the Southern Metropolis Weekly, wrote in an April 2008 entry on his personal blog, titled “My cowardice and impotence,” of the realities of China’s institutionalized media self-censorship.

    I am afraid of other people praising me as a brave newspaperman, because I know I am full of fears in my heart. I did write some commentaries on current affairs, and edited some articles that exposed truth….however, to be honest, these were exceptional cases. They were my miscalculations. In my various media positions in the past decade, what I’ve practiced most is avoiding risk. Self-censorship has become part of my life. It makes me disgusted with myself.30

    Within weeks of writing this, Chang Ping was dismissed from his job.31

    The Chinese government’s new “Regulations on Government Information Openness,” approved in January 2007, do little to boost transparency and reduce the risks Chinese journalists face in doing their jobs. The “Regulations on Government Information Openness” allow officials to block the release of any information judged to be secret, or that might “threaten national, public or economic security or social stability.”32  

    The circumstances for foreign journalists in China have not been significantly better.  For decades their ability to report was hindered by official rules which severely restricted their freedom and mobility. Those rules included the need for official permission to travel outside of Beijing or Shanghai, where the majority of the more than 700 foreign journalists from 374 news organizations33 are based, and a requirement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) approval for any interviews with Chinese citizens.34 Those rules effectively forced foreign journalists to operate in a legal “gray zone” and subjected them to detention and interrogation by Chinese police if discovered reporting in violation of official restrictions.35 Foreign journalists who ventured into the countryside without MOFA approval risked being stonewalled by the local governments whom they tried to interview, or being detained and required to write a “self-criticism” of their “illegal” actions as a condition of their release.

    Government Promises of Media Freedom for the Olympics

    China’s bids to host an Olympic Games through the 1990s were unsuccessful in part because of the government’s poor human rights record. In a 2001 effort to ameliorate concerns of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Wang Wei, secretary-general of the Beijing Olympic Games Bid Committee, insisted that international media would have “complete freedom to report when they come to China” for the Olympics.36 The IOC clearly found such pledges compelling.

    Part of [Beijing’s] representation to the IOC members was an acknowledgement of the concerns expressed in many parts of the world regarding its record on human rights, coupled with a pre-emptive suggestion that the IOC could help increase progress on such matters by awarding the Games to China, since this decision would result in even more media attention to the issue and likely faster evolution. It was an all-but-irresistible prospect for the IOC.37

    Beijing was awarded the 2008 Games shortly thereafter.

    In August 2006, Jiang Xiaoyu, executive vice-president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG), told a press conference that the Chinese government would, if necessary, change rules governing media in China “if our existing regulations and practice conflict with Olympic norms.”38 That December, the Chinese government announced that the most onerous restrictions on foreign correspondents’ reporting freedom—the need for official permission to conduct interviews—would be temporarily lifted in the run-up to and during the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The temporary regulations for media freedom for foreign correspondents—which do not extend to their local staff or Chinese journalists—are set out in the “Service Guide for Foreign Media,” published on the BOCOG website. 39

    The temporary regulations, in effect from January 1, 2007 to October 17, 2008, permit foreign journalists to freely conduct interviews with any consenting Chinese organization or citizen and “shall apply to the coverage of the Beijing Olympic Games and the preparation as well as political, economic, social and cultural matters of China by foreign correspondents in conformity with Chinese laws and organizations.”40

    When you travel, you enjoy the same rights as all foreign nationals in China. When you interview a person or a company, you do not have to apply to the local foreign affairs office for permission, and they don't have the responsibility of asking, “What are you doing here?”41

    The regulations drew initial praise from some correspondents for lifting longstanding obstacles to access to certain political dissidents, including Bao Tong, a former top aide to disgraced former Chinese Communist Party Chairman Zhao Ziyang, and to human rights activists, including the husband-and-wife team of Hu Jia and Zeng Jinyan. Some correspondents also say the rules have served at times as a valuable tool in fending off government officials and security forces who reflexively still seek to restrict the operations of journalists outside the major cities. “The temporary regulations make a lot of difference… you worry less [because] you can say to people ‘I have a right to be here,’”42 one correspondent told us.

    Despite the initial improvements, however, there were dozens of incidents of interference with journalists in the first six months of 2007 by government officials, security forces and plainclothes thugs, as well as some cases of direct intimidation by MOFA officials. Overall, the Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC) recorded more than 200 incidents of official interference with the activities of foreign correspondents between January 1, 2007, and the end of April 2008.43 

    Assessment of Media Freedom since August 2007

    Since mid-2007 the situation appears to have worsened. Many foreign correspondents we spoke with say they continue to face serious obstacles whenever the issues on which they wish to report are deemed “sensitive” by central or local authorities. The ongoing closure of Tibet to foreign journalists offers the starkest illustration of this point. In some cases, officials have attempted to extort positive coverage from journalists by threatening to withhold their accreditation to cover the Olympics. Evidence suggests that the frequency of incidents in which government officials and security forces have sought to intimidate correspondents’ local sources have risen over the past year. The Foreign Correspondents Club of China has complained that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has declined to investigate anonymous death threats against at least 10 foreign journalists in March and April 2008.

    The picture is not uniformly negative. Human Rights Watch interviewed several correspondents who praised MOFA for interceding on their behalf in recent months when they encountered official obstructions to their reporting. A television journalist detained by local officials in Anhui on November 9, 2007, credited the assistance of MOFA officials in both Beijing and Anhui in brokering her release from three hours of detention by local government officials. “I called MOFA and they asked where we were and said they would [get us released]. …[MOFA] kept checking in over the next 2-3 hours with the message that ‘help is on the way.’”44

    Unfortunately, the Chinese government’s response in the majority of cases documented in this report, and in reports of the Foreign Correspondents Club and other organizations, has not been positive. Instead, correspondents have faced evasiveness, denial, and recrimination. Sun Weija, BOCOG’s media chief, responded to queries in October 2007 about the lack of effective implementation of the temporary regulations by attributing such incidents to lack of knowledge of the new rules at “lower levels” of the Chinese bureaucracy.45 Moreover, in March 2008, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs alleged, without substantiation, that foreign journalists had attracted justifiable official interference in their activities due to their “reporting style,” violations of Chinese law and fabrication of news stories.46 The Chinese government has not publicly disclosed whether it has conducted any investigations, disciplinary actions, or prosecution of officials or security forces who have abused the reporting freedoms of correspondents.

    Government officials have implied that the temporary rules may be made permanent rather than expiring on October 17, 2008. “If practice shows that the regulation will help the international community to know China better, then it is a good policy in accordance with the country’s reforms and opening up,” State Information Office Minister Cai Wu told reporters in December 2007.47 This is an important commitment, and one that the international community should encourage. However, simply making the temporary regulations permanent will not improve media freedom in China, if present practice is any indicator. The regulations must be respected and enforced, and must be extended to cover Chinese journalists as well.

    Also disappointing has been the IOC’s inability or unwillingness to effectively press the Chinese government on its failure to enforce the temporary regulations. Not only was foreign media access a key issue in the decision to award China the Games, but Article 49 of the Olympic Charter explicitly commits the IOC to take “… all necessary steps in order to ensure the fullest coverage by the different media and the widest possible audience in the world for the Olympic Games.”48

    Although the IOC is aware of the more than two hundred documented cases in which foreign journalists have been harassed, intimidated, or otherwise abused, it has declined in its public remarks to raise these cases, and instead has tended to be congratulatory of the Chinese government. In September 2007, Anthony Edgar, the IOC’s Olympic Games Media Operations chief, said, “The Chinese government committed itself a long time ago to media working in China as freely as in other countries, in accordance with IOC and international practices and I think they are working well at the moment.”49 In February 2008, IOC president Jacques Rogge praised the Chinese government for the temporary regulations on media freedom and summarized their implementation by stating “the glass is half full” without addressing multiple and ongoing abuses of media freedom in China.50

    Two months later, when foreign journalists were barred from the TAR and neighboring provinces and correspondents were the target of death threats amid ongoing state-media-driven vilification of foreign media “bias,” the head of the IOC press commission, Kevan Gosper, praised the “open-mindedness” of the Chinese government in “supporting the interests of Chinese journalists as well as international journalists.”51 On April 3, Hein Verbruggen, chairman of the IOC coordination commission, told reporters that the IOC could “easily prove” that awarding Beijing the right to host the 2008 Olympic Games had improved China’s human rights situation, but did not provide any evidence in support of that claim.52

    International criticism of the Chinese government’s blatant violations of its Olympics-related commitments to media freedom in Tibet and neighboring provinces since mid-March 2008 prompted Rogge on April 10, 2008, to concede that implementation of the temporary regulations was inadequate, and he urged Chinese officials to improve their practices “as soon as possible.”53 Weeks later, Rogge indicated that protests related to China’s violations of its Olympics-related human rights commitments would prompt the IOC to “think about its role in society differently…[and] think of our activities in terms of human rights,” without providing any details about possible future changes in IOC policies and pledges with regard to Olympics host city human rights conditions.

    The failure of the Chinese government and the IOC to address ongoing violations of the temporary regulations prompted Human Rights Watch, in collaboration with the Committee to Protect Journalists, to produce a guide book for the estimated 30,000 foreign journalists who will cover the Beijing Olympics. This guide book explains the risks those journalists and their local staff and sources will face, and how to minimize the risks. The FCCC has produced a similar electronic document available on the club’s website.54 

    1 “Media muzzled on Olympic coverage,” Financial Times (Hong Kong), November 13, 2007.

    2 Mure Dickey, “Beijing orders tighter media controls,” Financial Times (Hong Kong), June 24, 2008.

    3 “Tibet re-opens to foreign journalists, say FM spokesman,” Xinhua News Agency (Beijing), June 26, 2008

    4 Henry Sanderson, “China reopens Tibet to foreign tourists,” Associated Press (Beijing), June 26, 2008.

    5  Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, “Foreign Ministry Spokesman Qin Gang’s Regular Press Conference on March 13, 2008,” February 14, 2008,

    6 Ibid.

    7  Cara Anna, “Chinese police drag grieving parents from protest,”Associated Press (Beijing), June 3, 2008.

    8  “Reporting Interference Incidents,” Website of the Foreign Correspondents Club of China, (accessed on June 13, 2008).

    9  Howard W. French, “Earthquake Opens Gap in Controls on Media,” The New York Times (New York), May 17, 2008.

    10 “Media edicts recall China’s Maoist past,” Financial Times (Hong Kong), May 14, 2008, (accessed May 15, 2008).

    11  Tom Mitchell, “Beijing reins in quake coverage,” Financial Times (London), June 2, 2008.

    12 “The Final Countdown: 100 Days Ahead of the Beijing Olympics, Foreign Correspondents Club of China Concerned about Deteriorating Reporting Conditions,” Foreign Correspondents Club of China press release, April 30, 2008, (accessed May 1, 2008).

    13 “Nation on Edge of Seat for Beijing Olympics,” China Daily (Beijing), March 11, 2008.

    14 “Former TV Chief Yang Weiguang dissects CCTV’s Backstage ‘News,’” Southern Weekend (Guangzhou), (accessed June 13, 2008). Yang’s full quote in response to a journalists question on Yang’s opinion on the appropriate “degree” of self censorship was: “This ‘degree’ is hard to measure using a ruler. It all depends climate, people’s mindset and to what depth the issue should be brought up. This is a lofty leadership art, and a key to success.”

    15 “Mass Media,” Official website of the government of the People’s Republic of China, (accessed on June 16, 2008).

    16 Human Rights Watch interview with a Chinese journalist (name withheld), Beijing, June 17, 2007. 

    17 “China’s road of free information flow cautious, but resolute,” Xinhuanet (Beijing), November 8, 2008, (accessed on November 8, 2007).

    18 Michael Sheridan, “China covered up existence of killer pneumonia,’” The Sunday Times (London), March 30, 2003.

    19 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted December 10, 1948, G.A. Res. 217A(III), U.N. Doc. A/810 at 71 (1948). International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), adopted December 16, 1966, G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 52, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 999 U.N.T.S. 171, entered into force March 23, 1976. The importance of media freedom is reflected also in regional treaties—the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Article 10.1); the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Article 9.1); the American Convention on Human Rights (Article 13.1); and the Inter-American Democratic Charter (Article 3)—although none covering the Asia region

    20 Proclaimed by the General Conference of UNESCO at its 20th session in Paris, November 28, 1978.

    21 Michael Bristow, “Stories China’s media couldn’t write,”, January 6, 2008, (accessed April 30, 2008).

    22 Ibid.

    23 “Chinese Press Muzzled at Parliament Hearing,” Reuters (Beijing), March 8, 2008.

    24 Ibid.

    25 “Hunan officials attack journalists interviewing relatives of victims,” South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), August 18, 2007.

    26 Vivian Wu, “Newspaper ordered to sack reporter over rail scandal,” South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), October 15, 2007.

    27 Vaudine England, “Beijing urged to free jailed journalists,” The Guardian (London), February 25, 2008.

    28 “Tibetan TV producer detained in China,” Committee to Protect Journalists press release, April 16, 2008 (accessed on May 8, 2008).

    29 Mitch Moxley, “Not an iron fist, but a shoulder shrug,” The Globe and Mail  (Toronto), March 22, 2008.

    30Chang Ping, “My cowardliness and impotence,” post to “Chang Ping’s Wide Travels” (blog), April 4, 2008, (accessed May 7, 2008); or长平, “我的怯懦和无能,” post to “长平博客” (blog), April 4, 2008, (accessed May 7, 2008).

    31 “Deputy editor removed from post,” South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), May 8, 2008.

    32  Mure Dickey, “China’s transparency rules could give state more control, say critics,” Financial Times (Hong Kong), April 25, 2007, (accessed July 31, 2007).

    33 “Foreign news organizations in china total 374 by end of 2007,” Xinhua News Agency (Beijing), January 25, 2008.

    34 Jim Yardley, “China Plans Temporary Easing of Curbs on Foreign Journalists,” The New York Times (New York), December 2, 2006.

    35 Ibid.

    36 “Beijing deflects human rights issues as 2008 bid vote approaches,” Agence France Press (Moscow), July 12, 2001.

    37 Dick Pound, IOC Member, “Olympic Perspectives: Seoul and Beijing,” in Minky  Worden, ed., China’s Great Leap: The Beijing Games and Olympian Human Rights Challenges (New York, Seven Stories Press, 208).

    38 “(Beijing Olympics) Organizers reiterate quality media service commitment in 2008 Games,” Xinhua’s China Economic Information Service (Beijing), August 8, 2006.

    39 Website of Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, (accessed May 9, 2008).

    40 Ibid.

    41 “China Relaxes Restrictions on Foreign Reporters for Olympics,” Voice of America Press Releases and Documents, December 1, 2006.

    42 Human Rights Watch interview with Richard Spencer, Daily Telegraph correspondent, Beijing, March 30, 2008.

    43  “The Space for Freedom of Expression of Foreign Journalists in China,” Melinda Liu, Foreign Correspondents Club of China President, Century Novotel in Hong Kong, May 1, 2008.

    44  Human Rights Watch interview with a Beijing-based foreign correspondent (name withheld), Beijing, January 5, 2008.

    45  “Pressing issue for Olympic Games,” Herald Sun (Sydney), October 12, 2007.

    46 “China ‘improving environment’ for foreign journalists,” Xinhua News Agency (Beijing), March 14, 2008.

    47 “Games reporting rules to continue,” Shanghai Daily (Shanghai), December 28, 2007.

    48 Ibid, p. 96.

    49  Lei Lei and Si Tingting, “Media Gives Thumbs Up to Olympics,” China Daily (Beijing) September 28, 2007.

    50  Rod Mickleburgh, “IOC chief touts China’s Progress in B.C. visit,” The Globe and Mail (Toronto), February 29, 2008.

    51  Cui Xiaohua, “IOC praises progress in media policy,” China Daily (Beijing), April 9, 2008.

    52 “Olympics: IOC rejects rights charge,” Agence France Press (Beijing), April 3, 2008.

    53  Stephen Wilson, “Head of IOC says Olympics ‘in crisis” over torch relay protests, criticism of China,” Associated Press (Beijing), April 10, 2008.

    54  Foreign Correspondents Club of China, “Committing Journalism: The FCCC Reporters’ Guide to China,” April 2008, (accessed June 24, 2008).