Paris, France â The France-based watchdog group Reporters Without Borders said it is shocked by the Chinese governmentâs praise of its human rights performance last year in a white paper published yesterday and points out that the regime continues to be one of the worst in the world for persecuting journalists and bloggers and censoring the news.
âThe tremendous achievements China has made in its human rights endeavours fully demonstrate that it is taking the correct path of human rights development that suits its national conditions,â the State Council Information Office said in a release about the white paper.
Entitled âProgress in Chinaâs Human Rights in 2014,â it emphasizes the governmentâs commitment to âfundamental rights,â âuniversal values,â âdemocracyâ and âcivil society.â
âThe white paperâs hypocrisy and presumptuousness would be good for a laugh if they were not matched by the severity of the governmentâs treatment of journalists, bloggers and cyber-dissidents,â said Benjamin IsmaÃ¯l, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk.
âBy using statistics in a way that renders them meaningless, the reportâs authors try in vain to hide the long list of human rights violations being carried out at the direct behest of President Xi Jinpingâs government. We urge the international community to condemn this reportâs mendacious self-assessment. China must stop pretending to respect human rights and must stop jailing all party and government critics with impunity.â
The white paper devotes just a few hundred out of a total of 14,000 words to media freedom and freedom of expression.
âFreedom of speech [is] better protected,â it says, citing a series of figures that supposedly support this claim: âIn 2014 China published 46.5 billion copies of newspapers, 3.2 billion copies of periodicals, and 8.4 billion copies of books, with 6.12 copies of books per person. By the end of 2014 the population of netizens in China was 650 million, and the Internet penetration rate was 47.9 percent.â
This paragraph ends with three phrases that suggest an interest in qualitative indicators but they are no more than a series of baseless claims about an imaginary reality:
âThe public can air opinions, and raise criticisms and suggestions freely through the news media, and discuss problems of this country and society. The government encourages enterprises to provide various Internet services to the public in accordance with the law so as to create a good environment for the public to acquire and exchange information. A cleaner cyber space is becoming an ever important place for the public to get information and make their voices heard.â
In fact, the Chinese government tightened its grip on the media in 2014. Regulations were issued banning journalists from âmaking unauthorized criticismsâ while well-known journalists and respected human rights activists were jailed.
The journalist Gao Yu, the cyber-dissident Xu Zhiyong and the Uyghur blogger Ilham Tohti joined the hundred or so journalists and information activists already jailed in China. âConfessionsâ became the fashion. Gao Yu and another journalist, Xiang Nanfu, were forced to deliver televised âself-criticismsâ in May 2014.
One of the worldâs online censorship pioneers, the Chinese government has continued to dedicate a great deal of resources to keeping the Internet under close control.
The pro-democracy âOccupy Centralâ movement in Hong Kong and attempts to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre were both subjected to carefully orchestrated media blackouts that used censorship, content blocking and news manipulation.
Independent news websites such as 64Tianwang are often the targets of cyber-attacks by hackers in the partyâs service.
The worldâs biggest prison for news and information providers, China is ranked 176th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.