As many as 127 journalists are behind bars in China and Hong Kong

Domestic News

China is the “world’s worst jailer of journalists,” the Committee to Protect Journalists said in its annual survey. Reporters Without Borders estimated that 127 journalists are currently detained in China, including Hong Kong, which has seen its press freedoms rapidly deteriorate under the National Security Law.

zhang zhan
A screenshot of a video by citizen journalist Zhang Zhan.

Two press freedom monitoring groups have recently detailed the worsening conditions for journalists in China, including Hong Kong.

  • “China remains the world’s worst jailer of journalists for the third year in a row, with 50 behind bars,” the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said today in annual survey.
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF) gave a much higher estimate: 127 journalists are currently detained in China and Hong Kong, the group said in a December 7 report.
  • RSF’s count includes 71 Uyghur journalists that are currently behind bars. CPJ notes that Uyghur journalists are often “accused of being ‘two-faced,’ a phrase without legal basis but suggesting surreptitious opposition to the Communist Party,” but suggests many of these were not included in its official count because “CPJ includes only those journalists who it has confirmed have been imprisoned in relation to their work.”

Some journalists currently imprisoned in China include:

  • Zhāng Zhǎn 张展, a citizen journalist who has been detained since May 2020 and later convicted of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” in December 2020 for her reporting from Wuhan in the early days of COVID-19 and criticism of the government’s response. She is reportedly “gravely ill after going on a hunger strike, according to her family and attorney,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
  • Fāng Bīn 方斌, another citizen journalist who went to Wuhan in early 2020.
  • Haze Fan, a member of the Bloomberg News team in Beijing, was detained a year ago under unclear circumstances. She remains incommunicado, “with no information forthcoming on her case,” Bloomberg reports.
  • Chéng Lěi 成蕾, an Australian citizen who was detained in August 2020 amid worsening Australia-China relations.

RSF’s report (full PDF here) went in-depth on the dismal state of journalistic freedom in China, particularly in Hong Kong:

  • China “ranks 177th out of 180 in the 2021 RSF World Press Freedom Index, only two spots above North Korea.”
  • Hong Kong, which was “once a bastion of press freedom, has slipped from 18th place, upon the index’s creation in 2002, to 80th place in 2021.”
  • The city’s National Security Law has “served as a pretext for the repression of at least 12 journalists and press freedom defenders.”

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