(TibetanReview.net, Mar04, 2011) China warned foreign journalists Mar 2 that they should obey restrictions on covering proposed jasmine rallies called by an online protest campaign or face possible loss of their permission to work in the country. The AFP and other news services Mar 2 and 3 said police in Beijing had requested meetings with foreign journalists in recent days, and had called in more than a dozen reporters on Mar 2 and 3 to inform them about the new restrictions.
The report cited police as having told the reporters that failure to comply with the restrictions on reporting at proposed rally locations could impact future government approval for them to work in the country. AP Mar 3 cited the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China as saying in a statement that some journalists had reported having been accused by police "of trying to help stir up a revolution, disrupt harmony in China and simply cause trouble."
And the www.csmonitor.com Mar 3 cited the Chinese government as having threatened foreign correspondents that their visas would be revoked if they continued to try to report on demonstrations held as part of a Chinese “Jasmine Revolution”. Likewise, www.voanews.com Mar 3 noticed that China was changing how foreign journalist could work in the country, with reporters being warned they risked expulsion if they tried to cover pro-democracy rallies.
The report said foreign journalists had been given only vague instructions on how to obtain permission to report at demonstration sites in Beijing. It added that they had been told to apply for approval with police, but some had been refused permission even after applying, or told to submit further documentation.
It added that in Shanghai, reporters had been told outright they could not report in the area near the Peace Cinema – the city's "Jasmine" site. In Beijing, several foreign journalists, including from the AFP, were said to have also reported attacks on their personal email accounts.
Asked to explain the police actions, foreign ministry spokeswoman Ms Jiang Yu was reported to have told journalists Mar 1 they must "cooperate" with police and follow the rules. "Foreign journalists should respect and abide by China's laws and regulations... Beijing is a very big city with a large population. It is important to maintain normal order," Jiang was quoted as saying.
Like many other international news services, the www.csmonitor.com report said the new threats against foreign reporters, including “being arrested or detained until the visa or work permit is canceled”, appeared to mark a significant step back from the liberalized reporting regulations introduced four years ago, which specified that “to interview organizations or individuals in China, foreign journalists need only to obtain their prior consent.”
Reuters Mar 3 noted that protests that had toppled authoritarian Arab governments had reinforced Chinese leaders' vigilance about defending one-party control, a priority since the Communist Party crushed pro-democracy protests in June 1989. It added that those official anxieties were sure to multiply as President Hu Jintao prepared to hand power to a successor in late 2012.
The report said China was also locking down droves of people it feared could stir unrest during the annual parliament session beginning Mar 5.