On Wednesday, China and the world watched as the seven men who will rule the world’s most populous country for the next five years took center stage in a carefully choreographed piece of political theater in Beijing in front of assembled media. However, some foreign reporters were not there to witness this historic moment.
The Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC) released a statement yesterday saying that reporters from the BBC, the Financial Times, the Economist, the New York Times and the Guardian were all refused access to the ceremony. All of these prestigious publications have published stories in the past which have ruffled the feathers of Chinese leadership. In its own report, the Guardian can’t help but note that The Daily Telegraph, which has a reported $1 million contract to regularly publish China Daily propaganda, was extended an invitation to attend the event.
In its statement, the FCCC expressed its concern with China starting its “new era” with this sort of gross media censorship. “Using media access as a tool to punish journalists whose coverage the Chinese authorities disapprove of is a gross violation of the principles of press freedom,” the statement concluded.
Never one to miss out on a chance for irony, during his speech to the press, Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomed foreign media members to go out and “see more of China.”
“We encourage members of the press to visit and see more of China. We hope that after the party congress you will continue to follow China’s development and progress and learn about and report on more dimensions of China,” Xi said.
“We do not need lavish praise from others. However, we do welcome objective reporting and constructive suggestions. For this is our motto: ‘Not angling for compliments, I’d be content that my integrity fills the universe.'”
Since Xi came to power five years ago, China has stepped up pressure and censorship against foreign media outlets, blocking news organizations’ websites for publishing sensitive stories and refusing to grant visas to those who cross the line. To show just how much things have changed, BBC reporter Stephen McDonell retweeted a photo yesterday that was taken at the end of 13th Party Congress in 1987. It shows General Secretary Zhao Ziyang with a beer in hand meeting laughing members of the press.
Party Congresses Past, pt. 5—General Secretary Zhao Ziyang meets the press, beer in hand amid laughter, at the end of the 13th Party Congress in 1987. Pretty impossible to imagine a similar atmosphere today. pic.twitter.com/dDPc5DDwRh
— Julian Gewirtz (@JulianGewirtz) October 24, 2017
— Stephen McDonell (@StephenMcDonell) October 25, 2017
Meanwhile, Chinese media appears to have received the message of Xi’s speech loud and clear:
— Keith Zhai (@QiZHAI) October 26, 2017
People's Daily front pages from party congresses past and present. Spot the difference (via HK Cable News China Desk) pic.twitter.com/YnW5qtjsFG
— Yuen Chan (@xinwenxiaojie) October 26, 2017
— Yew Lun Tian 游润恬 (@YewLunTian) October 26, 2017
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