Earlier this month, The Foreign Correspondence Club of China (FCCC), the professional association of foreign journalists in China, released a report entitled Zero COVID, Many Controls: Covering China in 2022. The report details many ways in which China restricted press freedom in 2022, including by using COVID as a pretext. The report features survey results of foreign correspondents, discussed below.
Barriers in Accessing China
Foreign correspondents had several issues with gaining access to China generally, according to the report. Fifty-six percent of foreign bureaus noted delays in receiving J-1 visas for their correspondents. Chinese authorities told sixty percent of the correspondents that did not receive a visa that it was delayed due to “geopolitical tensions.” Thirty-eight percent of respondents claimed that their bureaus lacked sufficient staff because of an inability to bring in reporters. Twenty-four percent of respondents experienced harassment or delay entering China, while 10 percent experienced the same when leaving China.
COVID as Excuse for Denying Access
Chinese authorities often used COVID as a pretext to deny foreign correspondents access in China, according to the report. Sixty-three percent of respondents claimed that Chinese authorities used COVID prevention as a reason to deny them access, even though authorities did not use those same measures on Chinese citizens. Approximately 42 (41.5) percent of respondents claimed that COVID was used to cancel their reporting trips at least four times. Forty-six percent of respondents were either denied access or told to leave somewhere in China under the pretext of health and safety, while those respondents were not considered a risk under China’s standards. Forty-seven percent of respondents experienced travel issues due to China’s healthcode system. Twenty-one percent of respondents experienced lockdowns which prevented their reporting.
Threatening Chinese Sources and Colleagues
The report discussed the CCP’s harassment of and threats to foreign correspondents’ Chinese sources. Thirty-eight percent of respondents had Chinese sources that had been in some way harassed or called in for questioning, up from 25 percent of respondents in 2021. The report also claimed that “multiple respondents” stated that their Chinese sources had been told by police not to speak to foreign journalists.
Additionally, 45 percent of respondents claimed that their Chinese colleagues were harassed in 2022, an increase from 40 percent in 2021. Forty-six percent of respondents stated that they had prepared resources to support and reassure their Chinese colleagues.
Eighty-five percent of respondents believed that their communications were “possibly or definitely compromised” on WeChat by government authorities, compared with 72 percent who felt the same with their phone calls, and 61 percent who believed that their office of home was bugged. Forty-one percent of respondents “regularly” feared surveillance was compromising their reporting and their ability to interview and communicate with sources. Thirty-six percent of respondents believed that their internet accounts had been hacked.
Additionally, fifty-seven percent of respondents claimed that they were followed during their reporting, and 45 percent reported that Chinese security had monitored their interviews. Half of respondents attested to disruptions by authorities during their interviews, and 18 percent claimed to have been detained during reporting.
CCP’s Response to the Report
The CCP’s criticism of the report was swift and harsh. One Global Times article called the FCCC “an illegal organization” that has engaged in “strong ideological prejudice and malicious smearing.” An article in China Daily called the reports of “travel restrictions” claims during COVID-19 “risible.”
The Global Times article mentioned above also quizzically claimed that the report failed to mention “the massive help and convenience that China provides for foreign journalists…” and that “[i]n fact, compared with the US and the West, China is quite tolerant of legal and compliant journalists in China…” Another Global Times article similarly opined that “China has always welcomed foreign media to report about the country in a comprehensive and objective way…” and that “China has also been providing support and convenience for international journalists to report about China in accordance with international practices and laws.”
The FCCC report shows a concerted effort by the CCP to suppress foreign media in China. Often this obstruction is explained away by safety concerns related to COVID. Suppression of truth is a common weapon of the CCP, as demonstrated with its narratives combating the lab-leak theory and charges of humans rights violations in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Tibet. The CCP’s hamstringing of foreign journalists gives further evidence that it cannot be trusted.
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Electric Vehicle company with Chinese ties awarded $500 million of taxpayer money for 2nd U.S. plant
With a little help from their Democrat friends, a Chinese electric vehicle (EV) battery company with ties to the Chinese Communist Party just announced the opening of its second plant in the United States.
Fox News reports Gotion Inc., whose parent company Gotion High-Tech is based in Hefei, China, unveiled plans to build a $2 billion lithium battery plant in Manteno, Illinois, alongside Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who cheered the project.
The announcement comes amid growing opposition to the company’s plans to build a billion-dollar factory in Mecosta County, Michigan.
In order to make the expansion happen, lobbyists for the Chinese Communist Party-tied electric vehicle company funneled cash to Democrats. “Individuals at a law firm registered as foreign agents to lobby on behalf of Gotion, a Chinese electric vehicle battery company developing a controversial project in Michigan, and wired campaign contributions to several top Democrats” reports Fox News.
“According to state and federal filings, Monique Field-Foster, an attorney at the Lansing office of the Warner Norcross + Judd law firm who is acting as a foreign agent on behalf of Gotion, donated to the campaigns of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Whitmer’s sister Liz Gereghty and Michigan Democratic Senate hopeful Rep. Elissa Slotkin” the Fox News report continued.
“With the right incentives, nation-leading infrastructure, world-class workforce and booming clean energy production, we have transformed ourselves into an attractive location for global manufacturers. Today, we take another leap forward. It’s my pleasure to welcome Gotion to Illinois and to show the world yet again that Illinois is ready to be a player on the world stage.”
Pritzker delivered remarks late last week thanking Gotion for choosing Illinois to call “home” in a ceremony with leaders from Gotion High-Tech, including Li Zhen, the company’s chairman and president, who said he expected the factory to open in less than 12 months.
“All that we see here [in Illinois] are of enormous value to us: an enabling business environment, a supportive state government for the new energy industry and their highly efficient work, as well as the prospects of the State of Illinois in the coming years,” the Gotion president added. “We believe that Gotion’s battery technology will help to boost e-mobility in North America and the economic and trade exchanges between China and the U.S.”
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