Reporters Without Borders addressed the following open letter to Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping today, after asking Internet users yesterday to put questions to him about freedom of information in China via the social networks we use. The accounts that we specially created for this purpose on several Chinese social networks were quickly blocked. We regret that the Chinese censors did not allow their fellow citizens to participate in a debate that was meant to be constructive.
Mr. Xi Jinping Vice-President of the People’s Republic of China
Paris, 15 February 2012
Dear Vice-President Xi,
Reporters Without Borders, an organization that defends freedom of information and media freedom, has been calling for more than 25 years for the decriminalization of media offences in China, for the abolition of state censorship of the Chinese media, for the free flow of information in the country and online, and for the release of journalists and Internet users who are detained just for publishing information which the judicial authorities regard as criminal.
Aside from a brief contact with the Chinese authorities in 2007, Reporters Without Borders has been completely unsuccessful in its attempts to establish a constructive dialogue with China on these issues, as it has done with other governments in Asia and the rest of the world.
As you are currently on a visit to Washington and have said that China is ready for a “candid dialogue” on human rights, Reporters Without Borders reiterates its proposal to start a dialogue on freedom of information and its readiness to help the Chinese government in every way possible in a task that is also its responsibility and duty – improving freedom of information in China.
In a message to Internet users yesterday, Reporters Without Borders offered to channel their questions about media freedom to you. This initiative was intended to be another attempt at dialogue, as all the previous attempts have failed.
We would like to point out to you that Reporters Without Borders is an independent organization whose concerns and criticisms are just the result of many requests for help from Chinese citizens and foreign residents in China, and do not in any way reflect a desire to meddle in China’s internal affairs.
Twenty-four hours after our proposal to Internet users, we now submit to you some of the questions we received. The “Reporters Without Borders” accounts we opened on the Sina Weibo and Renren platforms in order to make it easier for Internet users in China to send us their questions were unfortunately blocked. Although they are the most directly affected, Internet users in China were unable to have their questions freely relayed by Reporters Without Borders.
The following questions emerged from this brief exercise:
- Chinese Internet users often speak out about cases of corruption or abuse of authority by officials. Can you guarantee them real online freedom of expression so that they can continue to speak out on matters of general interest?
- Why are foreign journalists often prevented from moving freely about the country and from interviewing willing persons although both of these activities are permitted by the regulations that are in effect?
- The international community would like to know more about what is happening in Tibet and Xinjiang. Why is freedom of information in these regions different from in other regions of China? Are there ways to improve the situation?
- Can you describe the situation of freedom of information and media freedom in China and explain why it is so different from the situation in western countries such as the United States and certain European countries, although China’s constitution supposedly guarantees these freedoms?
- What do you think of freedom of expression and information in western countries, including the freedom enjoyed by Chinese journalists based abroad?
- Most references to the Arab springs have been withdrawn from the Chinese Internet. Are you going to allow your citizens to freely debate China’s political future and allow the media to contribute to this debate?
- We are very worried about the fate of the dissident Gao Zhisheng. Is he still alive?
- Aside from the human rights aspect, the censorship of certain foreign news websites also violates international trade regulations. What measures does the Chinese government plan to take to remedy this problem?
These are some of the questions being asked by journalists and ordinary citizens of all nationalities as well as by Reporters Without Borders,
We hope that you will understand the importance of establishing a dialogue on freedom of information in China and that you will respond positively to our request.
Olivier Basille Reporters Without Borders secretary-general