By George Michael
The Chinese government, which claims at every opportunity to be a great power, is acting more like a dictatorial regime with state organs going after journalists who are daring to question the government policies or point out the realities of life in Xi Jinping’s China.
But, journalists are not the only ones facing the brunt of Xi Jinping’s renewed assault on liberty and free speech. There is now a `national crackdown` on organised crime but the two groups which are being specifically targeted are the Tibetans dubbed as the “Dalai surrogates“ and Xinjiang `separatists“. Orders have gone out to the regional security forces to not to spare any one remotely seen to be supportive of the Tibetan spiritual leaders, His Holiness Dalai Lama, living in India since he fled his home following the Chinese takeover an independent state of the Tibetans. As expected, it was the journalists and social media activists who became the first targets -silence the messengers first and then take out any one who challenges the authority of the Xi Jinping’s authority. The crackdown on the media has been silent but ruthless. The most targeted are the social media activists who have been trying their best to report about happenings within their country. Many were picked up, detained and charged with all kinds of crimes and sentenced to long prison terms.
In its latest report on the status of media in China, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) , elaborated: “Despite China’s economic successes, which has opened up the country more than ever before, the climate for media is worsening. Today’s journalists are faced with a seemingly never-ending onslaught of restrictive orders and controls on movement as well as threats and intimidation by way of job losses, blocking of accreditation and rejection of visas in the case of foreign journalists. Combined with this, is China’s notorious reputation as one of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists with an ever-growing list facing detention or already locked away in jails for their efforts to bring critical information to light.”
The federation reported that there was no doubt that China under Xi Xinping was “only increasing its efforts to block the right to information and suppress freedom of speech.”
In a nine-year survey, the federation of journalists documented over 900 media violations —there were 250 incidents of censorship; more than 190 arrests, detentions and/or imprisonments; 90 restrictive orders and 80 incidents of harassment and/or threats. The figures are obviously a miniscule percentage of the reality. China is not an easy country to document with the state security agencies blocking every possible access of reporting through open and ruthless intimidation and threat. The report noted that there has been a growth of new generation of reporters and the mushrooming of social media and activists on the net, the media remains firmly controlled and ruthlessly censored and intimidated by the state.
Various international analysts who have been watching the media scene in China argue with every technological change, the Chinese Communist Party regime has been quick too adapt and adjust its mechanisms of persuasion and propaganda. Although the print media has declined in China with most of the readers shifting to digital media, the Chinese regime quickly moved in to subsidise and subdue these media platforms. As a result, there has been any opening up of the media space in China despite technological revolutions. An expert talking about the subject in a Washington seminar, summed up the situation: “Through its dominant control over digital media, the Chinese regime continues the intensification and centralization of censorship, dissemination of propaganda, and a coerced infusion of the party’s ideology onto the minds of the Chinese people.“ The crackdowns on civilians, including journalists, is part of a wider regime campaign to silence critics, or any talk of autonomy or democracy. People of the disputed region of Xinjiang have also been at the blunt edge of the Chinese repression. Innocents have killed over the years in the name of `terrorism`. People of the region have been subjected to worst human rights in the past few years when there has been an upsurge of protests by the local community at the atrocities they have to endure. They are forced to attend a month drill, run out of their shops and homes whenever the military or police orders them to. They are prohibited from observing Ramzan, a Muslim holy period of fasting and there are severe restrictions on practising their religions. They are now the target of a new campaign of oppression and violence by the state agencies. Orders have gone out for ` zero tolerance` campaign-in short it means don’t take anyone prisoner.
In the Tibetan autonomous region, forcibly annexed by China, similar orders have gone out to “ pursue “triads” who promoted “the middle way”, a reference to the Dalai Lama’s call for greater autonomy without independence for the region. “ The crackdown plan is built on neutralising “Dalai surrogates” who operated under the banner of culture and environmental protection, and others who called for the “protection of the mother tongue”.
The new season of violence and repression has just begun in Xi Jinping’s China and it will be the Tibetans, Muslims and liberals who will be the victims.