Greater China reacts to Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index
Jazza John, our contributor, is currently a student at National Chengchi University in Taiwan.
A report from Reporters Without Boarders suggests that freedom of the press in both Hong Kong and Taiwan has dropped. The Press Freedom Index, which is compiled of 179 nations, showed Hong Kong drop from 54 to 58 and Taiwan from 45 to 48, while Mainland China was elevated from 174 to 173. Finland maintained its position at the top of the list while Iran, Syria, Somalia and North Korea all positioned lower than China.
In an interview with the BBC’s Chinese service, Hong Kongese academic Willy Lam suggested that this drop was attributed to the influence of increased business links between the Mainland and the two independently governed regions of Taiwan and Hong Kong.
He reportedly told the BBC,
“Freedom of the press in Hong Kong has been decreasing ever since the hand over from the British in 1997. Heads of Hong Kong’s main media companies have significant investments on the Mainland, they don’t want to get on the wrong side of China, so they will often practice self-censorship and won’t cover stories that could upset Beijing.”
He also suggested that Beijing aimed to build close links with the editors and owners of Hong Kong’s media providers so as to liaise information back to the Chinese capital. As a result he said that the amount of negative news stories in Hong Kong directed at the Mainland had reduced.
Despite its drop in the rankings, Taiwanese media celebrated holding onto the title of the freest press in Asia with its closest competitors being South Korea and Japan, positioned 50th and 53rd respectively, with most other Asian countries trailing in the rankings.
In China, state media clam up about the index. “Reporters Without Borders” has been listed by Sina Weibo as a “sensitive word” and is therefore not searchable. But Chinese netizens’ views of the hideous ranking that China has got run the whole gamut, with some snubbing it as a Western dirty trick to demonize China, some expressing incredulity and the rest using dark humor or hand-wringing about the doomsday for Chinese press. From Sina Weibo:
“Imperialist countries certainly will rank socialist countries at the very bottom.”
“Have Westerners ever given China any fair judgment?”
“At least our country ranks the third among socialist countries!”
“I personally feel the press freedom in China is much greater than many would imagine, or at lease on some topics. Then whether this ranking is fair is open to question.”
“This (173rd) is a rather ironic number when put together with GDP…”
“That’s too much. It (China) should be at least out of the bottom 10.”
“We don’t have media but propaganda; we don’t have Internet but Intranet; we don’t have freedom but censorship.”
“I personally believe that too much freedom is not a good thing We’ll probably see more commentary like that regarding [Chinese Nobel Laureate of Literature] Mo Yan, saying that one can’t produce great works in these kind of conditions.”
“This decline will continue until Communism falls.”
Hong Kongese netizens also shared their own views online,
“Of course it’s going to be like this, it would be a wonder if we don’t get influenced by the Mainland. Reporters are being beaten and detained by the police. What is said on TV and on Radio is being distorted as we speak!”
“The media reports about us losing our freedom every day, it’s only rational that Hong Kongese media’s freedom is also being taken away.”