China’s 19th National Congress held on October 25, 2017, excluded several mainstream media organizations.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) regards the exclusion as a serious violation of freedom of the press.
The committee, which sees as its purpose protecting the rights of journalists, condemned the action and believes it to be an act of retaliation against them. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is apparently dissatisfied with reporting by foreign media, which is often not in line with the Communist Party’s propaganda.
More than 200 journalists waited in front of Bejing’s Great Hall of the People for the debut of the CCP’s newly elected Standing Committee members on the morning of October 25. By noon that day, Xi Jinping led the six Standing Committee members into the hall — Li Keqiang, Li Zhanshu, Wang Yang, Wang Huning, Zhao Leji, and Han Zheng.
During the opening of the press conference, Xi was quoted as saying: “This time, there are a lot of journalists from afar. Everyone has done full coverage of the meetings, which have caused widespread interest around the world. You all have worked hard.”
Xi introduced the “new members” and said he looked forward to “new goals and new missions.” Xi then addressed the media organizations, especially the foreign journalists, welcoming the journalists’ friends “to see more of China.”
However, in China, free use of the Internet and freedom of the press are highly restricted.
This circumstance was reflected in Xi’s comment welcoming the journalists “to see more of China,” and it was pointed out by critics that his seemingly welcoming gesture is not to be confused with freely or unrestrictedly seeing more of China.
The same day, the FCCC issued a statement pointing out that the BBC, The Economist, the Financial Times, The Guardian, and The New York Times did not receive invitations to the press conference.
It was also speculated that “it is hard not to come to the conclusion that these media organizations were singled out to send a certain message.” The demarcation of foreign media from the event was regarded by some as a tool for punishing journalists whose reporting was not in line with CCP propaganda. It was regarded as a gross violation of freedom of the press.
The initial exclusion of foreign media by China sparked widespread outrage among the media.
The New York Committee to Protect Journalists also issued a statement the same day condemning the CCP for preventing foreign journalists from accessing the press conference.
“On the one hand, the Chinese ‘President’ calls upon the foreign journalists to increase their coverage in China, and on the other hand, excludes the journalists from the event… this is ridiculous.”
The only statement issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, in reply to the foreign associations’ outrage, was: “Limited seats.”
See the original article in Chinese.
Translated by Chua BC