China Takes Control of Two More Newspapers

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch, Asia

 BEIJING, China – Two Beijing newspapers, Beijing Times and Beijing News, have been placed under the control of the Chinese Communist Party’s local propaganda department.

Two newspapers, Beijing News and Beijing Times, have come under control of the Beijing propaganda bureau (Photo Courtesy of China Media Watch).
Two newspapers, Beijing News and Beijing Times, have come under control of the Beijing propaganda bureau (Photo Courtesy of China Media Watch).

According to Qianlong, a website controlled and operated by the Chinese government, the newspapers were taken over in an attempt to control in an advertising war waged between them and to increase the influence and competitiveness of The Beijing News.

Critics; however, view the move as retribution for the outspoken and critical articles that both newpapers have become notorious for producing. One of the affected newspaper employees expressed concern at the affect the takeover will have by stating that “it means there will be so much we can’t do. Before there was news that other papers couldn’t do but we could.”

Prior to coming under the control of the Chinese government, Beijing News and Beijing Times were both overseen by the state-level Central Publicity Department which left them essentially untouched by the directives given by Beijing city authorities and thus more capable of candid reporting.

As a result both papers became well-known for consistently publishing stories, many of which other media outlets were prohibited from covering, that were critical of  local government’s around China.

Many journalists are alleging that this candid reporting is what led to the takeover. One example of the critical reporting done by the two newly censored papers was the high-speed train crash that occurred in Wenzhou in July and in which the papers harshly criticized the government’s response and poor safety standards.

In addition, Beijing News and Beijing Times both covered the controversial topic of school closures for the children of migrant workers in Beijing which has angered many human rights groups. According to a reporter at Beijing News, Beijing’s propaganda authorities had contacted the central publicity department several times to complain about what it perceived to be negative coverage.

Media analyst Wen Yunchao stated that “it’s been a headache for the Beijing propaganda authorities that they didn’t directly control the two newspapers.” According to Wen , prior to the takeover the Beijing propaganda authorities could only influence the content of the papers if they were assisted by the central publicity department but the new takeover will allow content to be controlled with greater ease.

Media experts, including Wen Yunchao, expect that the takeover will cause news content to rapidly change to alter coverage on sensitive and controversial topics in a way that will portray the Chinese government more favorably. 

Fear of increased government crackdown on dissent is further fueled by the recent discovery that Chinese authorities are considering a law that would allow individuals to be detained for up to six months without notification being given to family members.

Chinese authorities have denied allegations of a crackdown and have said that the editorial policies and senior staff would remain the same.

For more information, please see:

NDT – Propaganda Bureau Takes Over Two Beijing Newspapers – 6 September 2011

The Guardian – Propaganda Bureau Takes Control of Two Beijing Newspapers – 3 September 2011

The Diplomat – Beijing Papers Taken Over – 4 September 2011

Radio Free Asia – Newspapers Face New Controls – 4 September 2011

Beijing’s ‘Black Clinics’

By M.E. Dodge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China –  Unlicensed clinics and illegitimate doctors are treating China’s ill citizens too poor to seek professional care. Beijing city government admits that the Chinese capital has a problem with illegal medical centers – known as black clinics. 

In 2008, Beijing city government closed down more than 3,300  unregulated, and sometimes dangerous, clinics. The facilities are set up to serve the capital’s poorest people, most of whom are migrant workers who have traveled to the city in search of work. They offer a cheaper alternative to the city’s government-backed clinics and hospitals. Though less expensive, the clinics are often dirty and lack the trained medical personnel to offer professional medical advice. It is also uncertain where these clinics obtain their medical treatment and equipment.

Most of these ‘black clinics’ are found on the outskirts of the city, often near large construction sites that can employ hundreds of migrant workers. The clinics are popular among migrant worker communities because most migrant workers are left out of the health care system in cities in China. According to one construction worker, Hu, he stated, “We never visit big hospitals. It costs at least 300 ($44) to 500 yuan ($73) to go there.” This figure is significant when laborers like Hu earn a monthly income of about 1,000 yuan ($146). As a result, a recent report issued by the Chinese government shows that unlicensed clinics and illegitimate doctors still rampant on 26 streets and compounds in seven districts, in Beijing, despite government attempts to rid the city of these illegal practices.

The problem persists even though China is currently in the middle of reforming its health care system and is trying to provide everyone with basic health insurance. Officials hope to persuade poorer people that they could be endangering their health by visiting black clinics.  According to one health authority, “As illegal medical practices are mainly concentrated in the hidden integration of urban and rural districts and rural areas, they are difficult to combat.”

Foreigners and many non-locals of Beijing have access to most of the public and private hospitals. It follows that, a number of foreign hospitals have become popular among expats and wealthy locals. Only by investing 20 million yuan ($2.9 million) can foreign-funded hospitals and clinics meet the government standards, in an attempt to ensure quality, and as a result, these foreign funded hospitals are more likely to accept private health insurance from abroad rather than their Chinese publicly funded counterparts – leaving poorer local citizens to fend for themselves.  

For more information, please see:

Global Times – Beijing outlines ills and cures for popular but bogus clinics – November 20, 2009

BBC News – Beijing’s poor visit illegal clinics  – November 20, 2009

China Daily – Illegal clinics put patients at risk – October 20, 2009