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Disturbing new regulations prior to Olympic Games, increased control in Sichuan

June 17, 2008

Reporters Without Borders
June 10, 2008

Disturbing new regulations prior to Olympic Games, increased control in Sichuan

Reporters Without Borders is alarmed by the introduction of new rules
aimed at reinforcing controls over Chinese "fixers" working for
foreign journalists and over all foreigners visiting China during the
Olympic Games. The organisation also condemns an increase in police
controls of foreign journalists trying to cover protests by parents
whose children were killed when schools collapsed in the Sichuan earthquake.

"Any hope of seeing China calmly open up ahead of the Olympic Games
is gradually vanishing," Reporters Without Borders said. "The
authorities have introduced regulations hostile to foreigners, who
are suspected of wanting to disrupt the games, and are trying to
impose greater controls on Chinese citizens working for foreign
reporters. And, on the Propaganda Department's initiative, the
government is restricting the work of the Chinese and international
press in Sichuan."

"These measures, just two months ahead of the inauguration of the
Beijing games, are bordering on paranoia and are a long way from the
One World, One Dream slogan. We urge the International Olympic
Committee to put pressure on the government to rescind some of these
provisions and to ensure that the international press can work freely
in Sichuan."

Reporters Without Borders added: "So far, the IOC has not reacted to
these archaic regulations, preferring to issue a memo in May
reminding national Olympic committees that their athletes should
under no circumstances demonstrate at Olympic sites."

CONTROL OF CHINESE FIXERS

Chinese citizens working for foreign news media must now comply with
new rules designed to get them to register with the authorities.
Reporters Without Borders has obtained a copy of the new rules, which
were distributed by the CIECCO, a state entity that is supposed to
help foreign companies, including news media, to find Chinese employees.

The Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) has
been insisting since January 2007 that the foreign media recruit
professionals chosen by official intermediaries as translators. The
latest rules want all Chinese working for the foreign media to be
registered and suggest that the authorities should "select and name
appropriate candidates" for the foreign media.

If foreign journalists want to propose their own candidates, they
must provide an ID, a curriculum vitae, evidence of no criminal
record and a medical certificate. And a contract must be signed
between employer and employee.

The Foreign Correspondents Club of China told Reporters Without
Borders that "hiring and registering assistants through government
service agencies potentially increases bureaucracy, expense and
oversight by the authorities." The FCCC hopes the foreign media will
eventually be able to hire Chinese as journalists, photographers or
cameramen, but for the time being that is not allowed.

Reporters Without Borders has also learned of a directive issued by
the BOCOG media centre's visa division telling journalists to submit
precise information about coverage plans in China, including the
places they want to visit and the people they want to interview, in
order to obtain a J-2 visa, which is for media personnel who want to
arrive before the 8 August start of the games. The BOCOG also
requires a letter from an employer, which effectively eliminates freelancers.

These new provisions come at a time when the issuing of
multiple-entry visas is being restricted and obtaining tourist or
business visas is taking much longer, even through Hong Kong. The
government refuses to explain this tougher policy, which seems to be
linked to fear of demonstrations during the games.

CALL TO ORDER FOR FOREIGNERS

The BOCOG issued a set of guidelines for foreigners visiting the
games on 2 June. In a question-and-answer format and so far only in
Chinese, the guidelines tell foreigners they "must respect Chinese
laws while in China and must not harm China's national security or
damage the social order."

They say "terrorists," sex workers, drug traffickers, people
suffering from AIDS or tuberculosis and "subversives" are banned from
entering China. Some of the guidelines directly target those who
would like to demonstrate during the games. "Public gatherings,
marches and demonstrations cannot take place without prior permission
from the police." They also restrict freedom of opinion, forbidding
foreigners from bringing with them documents, disks or audio
recordings critical of China.

MEDIA OBSTRUCTED IN SICHUAN

Because of the anger of the parents of children killed in schools in
Sichuan, the authorities have tended to obstruct the work of the
foreign media in the province. On 6 June, two Agence France-Presse
journalists were prevented from entered Wufu, a city where
demonstrations took place after a primary school collapsed.

Foreign reporters were briefly detained and expelled on 5 June from
Juyuan and Hanwang, two towns where schools collapsed. Photographers
were removed from a demonstration by about 100 parents in Dujiangyan
on 3 June, and a reporter and photographer from the Japanese news
agency Kyodo were detained for several hours. According to the FCCC,
two Dutch journalists were stopped by the police when they tried to
go to Dujiangyan.

The Chinese press has been forbidden to cover the collapsed schools
story freely. Chinese journalists told the New York Times that the
order came from Beijing. The website of the Hong Kong-based China
Media Project (http://cmp.hku.hk/) reported that the Guangdong
province Communist Party's propaganda ordered the local media to pull
their journalists out of Sichuan. The site also reported that Li
Changchun, the Communist Party's propaganda chief, went to Sichuan.

The public security department has been told to put a stop to the
"illegal gatherings" and to pressure the families of victims to stop
talking to the foreign press. State media propaganda continues to
praise the government's efforts. State-owned CCTV's website even went
so far as to portray a demonstration in homage to the victims of the
Tiananmen Square massacre of 4 June 1989 as a homage to the victims
of the 12 May earthquake.

Finally, BOCOG intransigence on security issues is giving rise to
tension with international TV stations that acquired broadcasting
rights. The Associated Press reported on 8 June that there were angry
tensions at a meeting in Beijing at the end of May between the BOCOG,
the IOC and international TV stations over China's refusal to permit
live coverage of events in certain places such as Tiananmen Square
and the Forbidden City, and delays in granting permission for
broadcast equipment.
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