The Chinese authorities have tightened their grip on news and information even more since the emergence of Covid-19. Seven journalists are still being held for their coverage of the pandemic. In 2021, China continues to be the world’s biggest jailer of press freedom defenders, with more than 115 currently detained, often in conditions that pose a threat to their lives.
Kunchok Jinpa, a leading media source of information about Tibet, died in February 2021 as a result of mistreatment in prison, just as Liu Xiaobo, a Nobel peace laureate and winner of the RSF Press Freedom Prize, and Yang Tongyan, a dissident blogger, did in 2017. By relying on the massive use of new technology, President Xi Jinping’s regime has imposed a social model based on control of news and information and online surveillance of its citizens.
China’s state and privately-owned media are under the Communist Party’s ever-tighter control, while the administration creates more and more obstacles for foreign reporters. At the same time, Beijing is trying to export its oppressive model by promoting a “new world media order” under China’s influence.
China languishes near the bottom of the Index and does not appear willing to learn the lessons of the coronavirus pandemic, whose spread was facilitated by censorship and pressure on whistle-blowers. Worse still, Beijing has used the crisis to further tighten its control of the media, banning the publication of any reports that question how it has been managed.
This has been made easier since state and privately-owned media organizations are all strictly controlled by the Communist Party.
By making extensive use of the latest technology, President Xi Jinping has succeeded in imposing a social model based on the control of news and information and the surveillance of citizens. Of the 100-plus journalists and bloggers now in prison, some held in life-threatening conditions, at least three journalists and three political commentators have been arrested in connection with the pandemic. The government has also tightened its grip on social networks, censoring many key words linked to coronavirus. The crackdown on foreign correspondents has been tightened with 16 being expelled since the start of the year.