China: Beijing bloggers drop the ball?

There's been a lot of response to police in the southern city of Shenzhen‘s decision late last month to put two hundred men and women arrested in connection with prostitution on display in the middle of a major intersection for public humiliation. For most bloggers, the questions an act like this raises relate a bit to the issue surrounding sex work, but mostly about how Cultural Revolution-era mob tactics could reappear in today's China.

Many of those bloggers, however, decided only to let the photos speak for themselves. Lian Yue's Eighth Continent, for example, who merely posted two photos, one from the show trial and the second of Indian prostitutes out rallying for World AIDS Day last week, a comparison several other bloggers made. Moogee at Pro State In Flames took a similar approach by collecting different news photos from the show trial.

Moogee's on fire this week. Great news recently of relaxation on the rules imposed on foreign reporters visiting China leading up to next year's Olympics. But will Beijing's preparation for the summer games bring any benefits for local journalists, many of whom have turned sports reporting into an art?

As a sort of illustration of the profession in China, Pro State In Flames lists the reasons reporters from across the country had their press passes cancelled in the third quarter of this year (date/publication/name/id no./reason):

2006年9月21日 汕头日报 林琳 B440060000008 记者证被抢

September 21, 2006 Shantou Daily Lin Lin B440060000008 “Press pass stolen”

2006年9月14日 长江信息报 冯梦莎 B430056000040 性别错误

September 14, 2006 Changjiang Messenger Feng Mengsha B430056000040 “Mistaken gender”

2006年9月14日 长江信息报 吴岳丽 B430056000041 性别错误

September 14, 2006 Changjiang Messenger Wu Yueli B430056000041 “Mistaken gender”

2006年9月14日 家庭生活指南 李岩 K231039000003 名字错了

September 14, 2006 Family Life Guide Li Yan K231039000003 “Name misspelt”

2006年9月12日 南京晨报 盛文虎 B320095000070 记者证被盗

September 12 Nanjing Morning Post Sheng Wenhu B320095000070 “Press pass stolen”

2006年8月25日 广东科技报 肖文 B440113000018 激活前录入性别错误,没有相片,需重新申请

August 25, 2006 Guangdong Science and Technology News Xiao Wen B440113000018 “Prior to issuing, gender mistaken, no photo, needs to reapply”

2006年8月21日 江门日报 董国庆 B440044000058 手提包不慎被抢,内有记者证。

August 21, 2006 Jiangmen Daily News Dong Guoqing B440044000058 “Handbag stolen with press pass inside”

2006年8月14日 贵州政协报 王卫华 B520003000030 因被抢劫

August 14, 2006 Guizhou CPPCC News Wang Weihua B520003000030 “Pass stolen”

2006年8月3日 大同晚报 池连泉 B140027000022 退休干部!

August 3, 2006 Datong Evening News Chi Lianquan B140027000022 “Retired cadre!”

2006年8月2日 大同日报 曹守礼 B140019000058 退休干部!

August 2, 2006 Datong Daily Cao Shouli B140019000058 “Retired cadre!”

2006年8月2日 大同日报 刘光明 B140019000060 退休干部!

August 2, 2006 Datong Daily Liu Guangming B140019000060 “Retired cadre!”

2006年8月2日 大同日报 赫浦 退休干部!

August 2, 2006 Datong Daily He Pu B140019000072 “Retired cadre!”

2006年7月26日 宁德晚报 黄英 B350066000010 基本信息栏中照片出错,贴照片处贴的是别人的照片,与记者证上的照片不一致。

July 26, 2006 Ningde Evening News Huang Ying B350066000010 “Error with photo on details form, photo shown is someone else's, different from photo shown on press pass”

2006年7月21日 宿州市人民广播电台 刘正奇 G341300110001 已被检查院批准逮捕

July 21, 2006 Xiuzhou People's Radio Liu Zhengqi G341300110001 “Arrested by Procuratorate”

2006年7月17日 中国石化报 曹文艳 B110141130033 工伤,已丧失劳动能力

July 17, 2006 China Petroleum News Cao Wenyan B110141130033 “Injured on the job, incapacitated”

2006年7月12日 人民日报海外版 王丕屹 B110066000026 离岗留学

July 12, 2006 People Daily Overseas Edition B110066000026 “Left post for study overseas”

2006年6月30日 江西日报 赵赣荣 B360001000003 涉嫌经济犯罪

June 30, 2006 Jiangxi Daily Zhao Ganrong B360001000003 “Suspected of economic crimes”

Next post from Moogee is a recount from one notably anti-Communist Chinese-language newspaper of the events marking the human rights exhibition held in Beijing late last month, a vivid follow-up to great blogging here and here, which perhaps explains why little reporting in English was done on the event. Many overseas Chinese dissident websites filed reports on the exhibit, Radio Free Asia had their own and renowned intellectual Liu Xiaobo also wrote a long piece for Independent Chinese PEN which can be found here [zh]. A look through YouTube and several of its Chinese counterparts brings up no recent cellphone camera footage from the petitioners’ village, nothing a holiday hamper project organized by, say, English teachers in Beijing couldn't take care of.

From Pro State In Flames:

人权展不期之客 打乱当局如意算盘

Human Rights Exhibition's unexpected guests mess up authorities’ ‘wishful thinking’


After ten days in authorities’ awkard and nervous grasp, the first ever Chinese Human Rights Exhibition, held in Beijing's Cultural Palace of Nationalities, wrapped up quietly. From the 17th to 26th [of November], this exhibition went from a cold opening to which people paid little attention, to being flooded by petitioners holding protest after protest, to foreign reporters being chased out halfway through, then citizens suddenly being banned from entering, and ending with open arrests. During this exhibition, at least two thousand petitioners were arrested and some have been detained. A human rights exhibition, Beijing petitioner Wang Xuexin says, beheading human rights. What this ‘show’ of an exhibition really illustrates is the vile state of human rights in China today.


Angry at seeing human rights petitioners at the human rights exhibition, police not only cancelled the lunch of two buns and a bag of Chinese pickles for those petitioners taken back to Majialou [petitioner detention center], they also detained petitioners who were there before the exhibition with their banners, placards, posters, sandwich boards and cries. According to Beijing police, the order to detain petitioners who stood out was sent down from the Public Security Bureau and amounted to fifty to sixty arrests.


First ever human rights exhibition, opening stage: desolate


Communist Party media, reporting on the first ever human rights exhibition, aside from low-key reports at the beginning were practically all silent, despite the reporters from Xinhua and other Party media seen around the venue.


The Cultural Palace of Nationalities in which this exhibition was held is located on west side of Beijing's Xichang'an Jie, in Xidan's bustling business district, a golden location. To hold an exhibition in this kind of place and renowned building goes beyond the Ministry of Propaganda. Beijing locals point out that this exhibition was for the world to see, to beautify the Party's human rights image.


Starting on the 17th, there were almost no visitors for the first four days of the exhibition, the display hall was completely empty, only uniformed security guards scattered around.


Beijing petitioner Sun Lianxi looked around the exhibition and was taken away upon coming out. Beijing petitioners say Sun Lianxi started crying injustice inside the hall, but because there were reporters and foreigners present, the police didn't dare arrest her, could only grind their teeth and watch. As soon as she came out she was taken away and has since been put in detention.


Petitioners informed each other about the Party putting on a human rights exhibition and the news spread very quickly to petitioners in other provinces. Starting on the 21st, more and more people began coming to see the human rights exhibition.


First ever human rights exhibition, middle stage: unusually lively


By the 22nd, the exhibition hall was packed full of petitioners from all over the country. They were only allowed to enter the hall after a body search by male and female security guards and police. Petitioners say that in order to prevent petitioners from bringing any materials in to be given to foreign journalists and human rights observers, the security guards gave petitioners full body searches, even feeling their pockets and feet.


Beside the prominent “safeguarding of citizens’ freedom and rights” sign was the authorities’ white paper-red lettered promise that all of these had legal protection. The sign, so farm removed from reality, actually attracted many people's sarcastic exclamation, “look! Us Chinese have human rights!”


Beijingers say that inside the State Council Ombudsman's office had photos of petitioners, thirty people in two line-ups. Since when did the State Council have so few petitioners? Purely a shiny lie for your eyes.


The hall was packed full of petitioners, occasionally yelling out “Injustice!”, “We want human rights”…veteran petitioner of already thirty years, old lady Hao Wenzhong, propped up by a stick, started loudly accused the Chinese Communist Party of being inhumane. She said, “Am I or am I not Chinese? What about my human rights? I've been arrested 199 times, where are my human rights? Does the Chinese Communist Party still have any humanity?”


Although the hall was filled with undercover police and security guards, it seems direction from above on how to deal with the sudden flood of petitioners and mix of Chinese and foreign journalists hadn't yet been conveyed, leaving them appearing unprepared as to how to deal with the petitioners’ yells. Hall staff nearby old lady Hao Wenzhong appeared rather awkward, telling the senior to “be quiet”, to which she retorted, “be quiet? Be quiet? Who will hear me?”


At around ten-thirty, one Asian-faced reporter, after turning his lens toward Hao Wenzhong, was then watched by undercover police. The undercover police even yelled after him, “where are you from?”, to which he said nothing. When the undercover police went to drag the reporter out of the hall, they were met with the crowd of petitioners in the hall's collective commotion, and then gave up.


The reporter immediately sat down on a chair in the hall in protest, and several undercover police roughly surrounded the reporter on four sides. Although the petitioners were within reach of the reporter, none of them dared pass him any handouts. Obviously, the authorities have no shortage of methods of dealing with emergencies and very quickly, the exhibition hall “workers” took the reporter to the south door of the middle hall. Later it was explained by one petitioner that the reporter was Japanese.

The report goes on recounting the last few days of the exhibition in colorful detail, even quoting some interesting invective, telling of undercover sneakattack protesters, panicking police, increased police presence and of the petitioners getting hauled away by the bus load, as mentioned in many English-language blogs, wrapping up with an estimate of two thousand petitioners arrested in total.

Some overseas Chinese media, like the one which wrote the report Moogee reposted, tend not to have much reputation for balance. At the same time though, it's often only their reporters who are on the scene for stories like this. If what was said above was true, where are the foreign media's eyewitness reports? Even more pertinent, where were Beijing's English-language bloggers at the time?


  • 人权展的报道可信度很低,或者说有些夸大

  • Shizhao says above that ‘news reports on the human rights exhibition are quite unreliable, or else a bit exaggerated.’

    To Shizhao, I’m interested to hear why you think so, especially if you have first-hand information.

    Overall, I’m sometimes sceptical about what I read on certain overseas Chinese websites, so before I posted this I checked with some journalist friends working for mainstream media outlets and they confirmed that the basic details are true. What I’d really like to have seen was first-person reporting from bloggers located in Beijing.

    In Chinese:

  • peggy

    What a striking contrast for the state of sex worker rights in India and China! PRC penal policy makers need to really re-think if this public shame is targetted at the right people. Are these sex workers the harbingers of vice and evil ….or merely realities revealing the limited opportunities available to marginalized women in China’s booming global capitalist economy. . . it is afterall the oldest trade in the world and morality debates aside. . .these women workers struggle to survive in a trade that gets the least protection and the most overt patriarchal state harassment.

  • Christine Ng

    Hihi, I am Christine Ng, a university student of Hong Kong. I am currently doing a feature story on bloggings and journaliam. I know you are a language editor of Global Voices. I would like to ask you some questions, particularly about China. Could you do me a favour?? Can I conduct an interview with you by whatever means you like at your available time?
    I am looking forward to your reply. Thank you.

    Best regards,

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