China threatens foreign journalists, imposes new rules

The Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC) said police had summoned dozens of journalists in Beijing and Shanghai after at least 16 were detained near the sites of anti-government rallies Sunday.

"Each session has been slightly different but they follow a common theme: the reporter has broken the Chinese regulations, officials know about it and the journalist will face consequences if he or she does it again," the FCCC said in a warning notice to members.

It said police had told journalists that the consequences of unapproved reporting could include detention "until the visa or work permit is cancelled". Two European broadcast journalists who were summoned for a lecture on reporting restrictions in China Wednesday said they were given a "formal talk" by police officers.

The police accused the journalists of going to Beijing's Wangfujing shopping street, the site of one of Sunday's "strolling" protests, "to bring chaos to the area". "You need permission in any place anywhere in China before you are allowed to interview," one officer told the journalists.

"I will give you an example: If you want to interview a person in a (housing) compound, you have to get the permission of the compound," the journalists quoted him as saying. Paris-based Reporters Without Borders earlier condemned the "thuggish attitude of the police officers who used force and violence against the journalists" in Wangfujing, where a Bloomberg journalist was beaten and several other reporters were roughly handled by police.

US-based Human Rights in China Thursday said the crackdown on foreign journalists "marks an escalation of media censorship in China". Rights groups have reported the detention, house arrest or harassment of dozens of activists in Beijing and other cities since online protest calls began circulating in mid-February.

The Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Defenders Wednesday accused the ruling Communist Party of reacting to the protest calls with a "frenzied repression" of activists. Chinese activists operated in a "hostile and dangerous environment" in which they were "routinely subjected to arbitrary detention, torture, and enforced disappearance," the group said in an annual report.

China's foreign ministry defended the government's controls on foreign media Tuesday, saying some journalists "did not follow relevant procedures" at Wangfujing.

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