The freedom of speech rights arguments based on John Milton ‘s, our speech rights is understood as a multi-faceted right. It includes not only the right to express, or disseminate, information and ideas but three further distinct aspects:
1. the right to seek information and ideas
2. the right to receive information and ideas
3. the right to impart information and ideas
(John Milton. Areopagitica.1644)
When we comment on social conditions, we care for our rights to the speech are free or not. Freedom of speech is a kind of basic human rights. It refers to the statutory political rights of a country’s citizens who can express their opinions and ideas according to their wishes. These expressions need not be subject to the government’s “ex-ante” review and restriction, nor need to worry about retaliation from the government.
Chapter III: Fundamental Rights and Duties of the Residents
Hong Kong residents shall have freedom of speech, of the press and of publication; freedom of association, of assembly, of a procession and of demonstration; and the right and freedom to form and join trade unions, and to strike.
(Hong Kong Basic Law, 13 July 2012)
According to the Chapter 3 of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (Basic Rights and Obligations of Residents) Article 27, Our freedom of speech, press and publication, freedom of association, rallies, processions, demonstrations are guaranteed as the Hong Kong citizen. Similarly, Hong Kong journalists’ freedom of speech is also protected by the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. But have you ever wondered if such legal protection is really effective and good enough when we are out of the Hong Kong area? How about in China?
The situation of Hong Kong Journalists in China Mainland
Hong Kong journalist was beaten covering the 10-year anniversary of Sichuan earthquake:
On May 12th – the tenth anniversary of the Sichuan earthquake, a Cable TV Broadcasting company’s journalist name Chen Ho Fai (陳浩輝) was being attacked by two local plainclothes officeholders when he was interviewed at the Juyuan Middle School in Dujiangyan, Sichuan Province. His body was hurt by those attacks.
Via RTV provided the video record of “the reason why HongKong’s journalist got attack” from the mother Mrs. Lu Bik Yu (魯碧玉) of the victims of the earthquake. The mother of the victims of the earthquake stated that during the entire process, two Hong Kong journalists were discovered and taken away by plainclothes personnel. She also claimed that parents of other witnessing processes stated that they saw reporters being beaten while another journalist safely left the scene under the escort of parents.
The reason of the same day morning, there were about 200 parents arrived at the Juyuan Secondary School (聚源中學) for memorial their children as it was a place where the number of Wenchuan, Sichuan earthquake victims was severe in 2008. They erected a memorial wall and affixed students’ photos. Set up the banner to demanded stern punishment the people who were in charge of the “bean curd residue” school building project. At the scene, a large number of local plainclothes officers were present to monitor people’s every move.
Mrs. Lu Bik Yu (魯碧玉) was angry at the authorities’ actions of treat journalists. She believes this is the guilty conscience of the authorities and does not allow the outside world to know the performance of the “bean curd residue” school building project.
Ten years ago, the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region alone had already sent 10 billion Hong Kong dollars worth of public funds to Sichuan for reconstruction purposes. The follow-up report by Hong Kong journalist was actually beaten. Through Mrs. Lu Bik Yu (魯碧玉) statement in the video recording, we can realize that China is very sensitive to media involvement.
Four days later, we heard our Hong Kong journalists were violently treated by China Public Security in Mainland.
On May 16, Beijing Human Rights Lawyer Xie Yan Yi was sent to the Beijing Bar Association to hold a hearing for illegally sentencing Yinchuan Falun Gong practitioners. On the same day, several overseas reporters interviewed Xie Yan Yi and his wife at the hearing. They were violently obstructed by Beijing police. Among them, the Hong Kong Now TV News reporter Xu Junming, a Beijing-based photojournalist, was subjected to violent attacks by plainclothes and other police officers during the interview and was subsequently taken into a police car. Xu Junming was released after being controlled by the police for several hours and forced to sign a penitent.
In just a few days, two incidents of assaulting the Hong Kong media journalists have occurred, which has caused intense public concern. It can thus be seen that it is an ordinary phenomenon that the normal interview with reporters is blocked by violence in China Mainland. Such acts of trampling on press freedom and brutally blocking interviews are not one-and-a-half events. It has happened many times in the past.
This cannot help but doubt of are journalists’ rights of interview and speech and personal safety guaranteed in China?
The situation of other countries and Mainland Journalists in China Mainland
(Photo source: BBC fragment screenshots)
2 December 2006 : U.S. Reporters Detained in Interview
Agents from the local police, Foreign Ministry office and Customs Department detained Kahn, The New York Times Beijing bureau chief, and International Herald Tribune reporter Roger Cohen while they were interviewing a businessman in Zigui, near the Three Gorges Dam in Hubei province.
According to the “New York Times” report, two journalists questioned by the agents of MPS (Ministry of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China) about their reporting activities. The agents of MPS confiscation their passports and asked them to write down “confessions.” The two journalists were detained for an hour before being released.
（CPJ, 2 December 2006）
16 January 2007: In China, a reporter was beaten to death at the illegal mine
According to news reports, unidentified men from an illegal mine in Huiyuan County, Shanxi Province, severely beat the reporter Lan Cheng Zhang on January 9th, causing him to die the next day. Local officials claimed Lan did not provide the official certification so he was not a legitimate journalist, according to Nanfang Ribao. Lan actually had been working for the Shanxi bureau of the Beijing-based newspaper Zhongguo Maoyi Bao (China Trade News) for less than a month actually.
（CPJ, 16 January 2007）
13 August 2008: ITN journalist, covering demonstrators in Beijing, is roughed up
John Ray, a journalist of the British television station ITN, was detained by the police and treated harshly when he reported a pro-Tibet student demonstration in Beijing on Wednesday. According to reports from Swiss media, Ray said that he was dragged into a nearby restaurant and was forcibly detained by the police.
“I tried to explain to them that I was a British journalist, but they would not even let me take out my identification documents,” the BBC quoted Ray as saying.
（CPJ, 13 August 2008）
18 December 2008: Belgian TV crew attacked in China
On 25 November 2008, Tom Van de Weghe, VRT ATTACKED Eight assailants pulled Belgian journalist Van de Weghe, an Australian cameraman, and a Belgian assistant, from their vehicle before beating them and stealing money and equipment during a reporting job in Henan province, central China, according to the Foreign Correspondents Club of China and international news reports. The crew was recording interviews with AIDS patients in advance of World AIDS Day for the Flemish Radio and Television network VRT.
（CPJ, 18 December 2008）
15 September 2016: Chinese police detain, assault Hong Kong journalists for covering the protest
The Committee for the Protection of Correspondents stated on September 15, 2016, that the Chinese authorities should carry out credible independent investigations against allegations that the police have attacked journalists and allowed reporters to carry out their work (including protests without restrictions). Their employers reported that last night, the police in the southern part of Guangdong Province, China, attacked and detained five journalists from the Hong Kong news media and prevented many from going to villages that had recently become protest sites.
（CPJ, 15 September 2008）
Through these news facts, China’s news environment is very limited. Space for any journalists to properly interview in mainland China is gradually being suppressed. Being attacked, detained, cross-examined, unreasonably accused and treated with violence even journalists’ life is threatened by telling the truth.
According to the CPJ report, more than half of the globally imprisoned reporters are charged with anti-state crimes. China is the most severe prison in the world. Of the 44 journalists who were imprisoned, since the CPJ began the annual census in 1990-29, the country with the largest number of Chinese has been anti-state accusations.
Gao Yu, one of 44 journalists behind bars in China, was detained on charges of illegally providing state secrets abroad, days after details of Document 9 appeared in Mirror Monthly, a Chinese-language political magazine in New York. Gao, 70, confessed on official state broadcaster CCTV, but during her closed trial, on November 21, 2014, she said that the confession was false and made only to prevent her son from being threatened and harassed, her lawyer said.
(Cpj. 10 Most Censored Countries. 2015)
Mainland China dismisses the freedom of the press and the right to know the people, brutally tramples it, and stops it with violence if necessary. This practice not only does not respect the freedom of the press and the right of reporters to legally interview, but it does not even have the least respect for the personal safety of people.
When an injured journalist was arrested, he was even deprived of his basic rights. He could not contact the outside world, nor could he go to the hospital for a medical examination to understand how the injury was. He was also forced to sign a repentance book by the public security police, acknowledging that he had caused the incident and crashed into the MPS public security before he was allowed to leave. And go to the hospital for therapy.
Victims themselves must acknowledge that mistakes and responsibilities have always been the routine work of China Mainland government. This form compels journalists to lie. Any professional news agency and reporter would like to have a live report to let readers and citizens understand the latest developments and situations in the society. But the most authoritarian government policy block the truth out to cut off the threat of government.
Part II： The Hong Kong Bill of Rights
Freedom of opinion and expression
(1)Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
(2)Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
[Cf. Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights]
(Hong Kong Legislation Part II： The Hong Kong Bill of Rights. 2017 No. 1 editorial revision record)
The Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance (Chapter 383 of the Laws of Hong Kong) incorporates the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights applicable to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region into the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and provides for incidental and related matters. Article 39(1) of the Basic Law stipulates that the relevant provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights applicable to Hong Kong shall continue to be valid and shall be implemented through the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
In Hong Kong, our freedom of speech is guaranteed from the “Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” indeed. But we don’t have the ICCPR protection in China Mainland as the ICCPR have many conflicts with the party-state system established by the ruling party in the country. The party-state system is the political ideal of a one-party government. The ruling party has absolute power and exercises sovereignty on behalf of the state. The China Mainland Sovereignty directly belongs to the party organization rather than the latter’s nationals which are different from the concept of the CCPR. It means that the Convention has not yet been formally approved in China Mainland.
2014 is China’s 15th Reporter’s Day. The press circles around the world have held celebrations or commendations, and the relevant authorities have once again stressed: “Reporters must appeal to the cause of justice and do a good job of the mouth of the party and the people.”
(Yan Wei 嵇偉, BBC Chinese Network Reporter,7 November 2014)
The freedom of the press and journalists rights are limited by the China Mainland government. Our rights are being limited at the same times indirectly as the government repressed the freedom of the press and the living space of journalists. The news we receive is not complete and correct in fact. However, the freedom of news reporting should be above all else as a real journalist. In China, although the Constitution stipulates the freedom of speech and publication, it cannot truly achieve freedom of the press because there is no legal guarantee. The way the Chinese Mainland government treats journalists is how they control media communication.
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