As Paris rolls out the red carpet for visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping, Reporters Without Borders staged a protest early today to draw attention to the lack of sincerity of Xi and his government about civil liberties, especially freedom of information as enshrined in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Eight-square-metre photomontages showing the Chinese president giving the finger were to have been driven around Paris on five trucks all morning. An interview with Lucie Morillon, Head of Research One truck managed to pass in front of the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe but the other four were stopped before entering the city. Photos of the photomontage were taken in front of some of Paris’ most emblematic monuments while RWB activists on bicycles, waving banners with a smaller version, completed the procession. The police who stopped the four trucks were unable to provide Reporters Without Borders with grounds for the interception. “It is not right that the authorities took this kind of action to prevent a reference to the situation of freedom of information in China,” said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire. The aim of the protest was to highlight the open contempt that the Chinese authorities – led by Xi Jinping, who holds the posts of president of the People’s Republic, Communist Party general secretary and chairman of the Central Military Commission – show for their citizens, denying them freely-reported news and information and subjecting them to constant propaganda. “The disconnect between the official discourse about the Chinese dream and the ruthless persecution of independent journalists shows the degree to which Xi Jinping is making fun of the world,” Deloire said. “Article 35 of China’s constitution says that its citizens enjoy ‘freedom of speech (and) of the press,’ but more than 100 Chinese citizens – professional journalists and netizens – are currently in prison simply for trying to report the country’s reality.” In China, the state media are government propaganda tools, and the propaganda bureau sends more than 1,000 directives a year to all of the country’s journalists. News conferences are stage-managed with bogus journalists asking questions, while an ideological test has just been reintroduced for journalists when they need to renew their press card. The “campaign against rumours” launched by Xi aims to tighten control of the information circulated by Internet users, while improvements continue to be made to the “Electronic Great Wall.” When website filtering and blocking are not enough, the authorities have no compunction about abducting and beating “troublemakers.” With at least 30 journalists and 74 citizen-journalists currently detained, China is the world’s biggest prison for media personnel and netizens. China’s Nobel peace laureate, Liu Xiaobo, is serving an 11-year jail sentence just for defending free speech. China is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.