The Chinese authorities banned a Sankei Shimbun reporter from participating in reporting the first segment of the meeting in Beijing between Vice Foreign Minister Takeo Akiba and State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
This is a bizarre form of censorship that tramples on the freedom of the press. It is also an absolutely unacceptable blatant attempt to put pressure on the foreign media, which strive to provide objective reporting amid stringent restrictions. We voice our strong objection.
Correspondents of Japanese media outlets in Beijing also boycotted the press opportunity on the grounds that the ban on Sankei was impermissible. We commend their resolute stance.
The government’s protest to the Chinese side was also completely reasonable. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stated that “the measure taken this time was extremely regrettable.”
The Japanese and Chinese governments are currently looking at ways to improve their frigid relations. Oct. 23 will mark the 40th anniversary of the effectuation of the Japan-China Treaty of Peace and Friendship. The purpose of the Akiba-Wang meeting was to coordinate for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to China in October.
However, is it possible to build good relations with a China that does not understand the importance of press freedom?
The basic nature of China as a state has not changed at all, as evidenced by its expansionism manifested in the militarization of the artificial islands in the South China Sea, its authoritarian rule, its disregard for human rights, and so forth. Its unabashed control of the press and the expression of opinions is part of this.
Freedom of the press, along with the rule of law and respect for human rights, is one of the universal values upheld by the international community.
China has simply ignored this and resorted to rejecting Sankei’s reporting. We must not bow to the Chinese authorities’ modus operandi in its attempt to control the foreign media.
Last June, the Chinese authorities also rejected the participation of a Sankei reporter in a delegation to the Tibet Autonomous Region organized by the Japan National Press Club, which prompted the Press Club to cancel the trip.
Sankei reporters have been refused participation in the news conferences held by Premier Li Keqiang after the National People’s Congress since last year.
The Chinese authorities are also making use of the approval of visas and visa extensions to control the media. Sankei’s visa application for its China bureau chief was kept on hold for three years until 2016. A reporter of the New York Times and most recently, a reporter of a U.S. Internet media reporting on human rights issues in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, were denied visas.
The only way to resist the Chinese authorities’ sabotage and pressure on press freedom is to persist in objective reporting and expressing just opinions.