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Internal police documents reveal strategy with foreign journalists

August 24, 2008

Reporters Without Borders
August 21, 2008

Although Chinese police have attacked or manhandled around 10 foreign
journalists since the start of the Beijing games, they were told not
to obstruct the international press in directives sent to police
stations at the end of July, of which Reporters Without Borders has
obtained a copy. These directives nonetheless clearly instruct them
to investigate the Chinese who talk to the foreign media, and another
directive on 7 August (also obtained by Reporters Without Borders)
orders them to deal quickly with religious demonstrations.

"The rules for the foreign press adopted in January 2007 were simple
and explicit - freedom of movement and freedom to interview,"
Reporters Without Borders said. "The Chinese police documents
obtained by Reporters Without Borders show that the police were
indeed ordered to let foreign journalists work, but they were also
ordered to investigate the Chinese who told them embarrassing things."

The press freedom organisation added: "The recent arrests of Chinese
who wanted to stage demonstrations or express themselves during the
Olympic Games were examples of this desire on the part of the
authorities to target their own citizens rather than the thousands of
foreign journalists."

Reporters Without Borders is releasing three Chinese police documents
on official strategy towards the foreign media. While the aim of
these documents is to ensure that the thousands of accredited foreign
journalists in Beijing are free to conduct interviews, they also ask
the police to prevent non-accredited journalists from working and
above all to investigate the Chinese who talk to the press. This
suggests there could be reprisals after the games, when all the
journalists have gone.

Dated 25 July and entitled "Four directives for handling foreign
journalists," the first document asks the police not to block their
camera lenses (1), not to damage their equipment (2), not to
confiscate their memory cards (3) and not to investigate when they
are involved in minor offences (4).

Reporters Without Borders knows of several cases in which these
directives were clearly violated. Uniformed officers physically
prevented Hong Kong journalists from filming a crowd getting out of
hand during the sale of tickets for the games on 25 July. Reporter
John Ray of Britain's ITN was arrested by Beijing police officers
while covering a demonstration by pro-Tibet activists on 13 August.
He was forcibly restrained for 20 minutes although he identified
himself as journalist, while his cameraman was prevented from filming
the arrest of the protesters.

Police destroyed material and equipment of a photographer with the
London-based Guardian newspaper. And in Xinjiang, Associated Press
photographers were forced to delete the photos they had taken.

The second document is entitled "Eight directives for not intervening
when a foreign journalist is interviewing a Chinese." It tells police
not to intervene if the journalist is accredited (1), if the
journalist is accredited but is not asking political questions (2),
if the person agrees to be interviewed (3), if the journalist asks
about a third country (4), at news conferences given by foreign
organisations that have permission (5), if the journalist is asking
about sensitive matters but the interviewee is not causing people to
gather and disrupt public order (6), if the interviewee talks about
subjects such as Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan and Falun Gong or criticises
the Party or government but is not behaving outrageously (7), if a
journalist photographs or films policemen without disrupting their work (8).

As regards point 7, the directive tells the police to "speak to the
interviewee in accordance with Chinese legislation and to follow and
monitor the journalist." There have been more than ten cases of
Chinese being arrested after trying to alert international public
opinion to abuses they have suffered. Two Beijing women in their late
70s were sentenced to a year of reeducation through work on 17 August
for asking permission to demonstrate during the games, while Zhang
Wei, a former resident of Beijing's Qianmen district, was arrested on
9 August after complaining to foreign journalists about the way she
was rehoused.

Reporters Without Borders has seen that, during protests by Christian
or pro-Tibet foreigners in Beijing, the authorities prefer to let
police disguised as young patriots or members of civilian
surveillance groups intervene rather than directly arrest the demonstrators.

At the same time, the public security department's campaign to
intimidate Beijing human rights activists before the Olympic Games
enabled the authorities to sideline these spokesmen for social,
religious and political demands. More than 40 of them were put under
house arrest, forced to leave Beijing or forced to go into hiding for
fear of reprisals.

The third document is an analysis by the Criminal Affairs Bureau of
three incidents involving pro-Tibet activists, Christians and a
delinquent. Directives tell the police that the priority is to carry
out a thorough investigation and avoid bad publicity. The Criminal
Affairs Bureau recommends arresting foreign demonstrators and
deporting them as quickly as possible. The police are told to do
everything possible to "depoliticise" their actions by stressing the
public order consequences to the public.

Point 4 of the directives tells the Beijing police to deal with
"religious cases as quickly as possible." They are told to "keep the
crowd at a distance, devise all sorts of ploys to defuse the
situation and immediately inform the Religious Affairs Department."
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