May 3 is World Press Freedom Day. For the first time, Reporters Without Borders has published a list of 100 Information Heroes. The list honors journalists who have contributed and made sacrifices in order to impart information. Four mainland Chinese people are listed. Huang Qi is founder of 64tianwang, China’s first human rights website. Liu Hu is a former reporter for the Modern Express newspaper. Li Jianjun is a former investigative journalist for the Shanxi Evening Post. Also listed is Tibetan monk Jigme Gyatso.
Reporters Without Borders announced on April 29 that the 100 Information Heroes span 65 countries, and are aged between 25 and 75 years-old. They are dedicated to serving public interests. They promote freedom enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That is, the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media.
Christophe Deloire, Secretary General for Reporters Without Borders, spoke about World Press Freedom Day in an announcement. It should be an occasion for paying tribute to the courage of the journalists and bloggers sacrificing their safety and lives.
There are four Chinese named in the 100 Information Heroes. Huang Qi is founder of China’s first human rights website called ‘64tianwang’. Liu Hu is a former reporter from the Modern Express newspaper, who was arrested for reporting online about several corrupt high level CCP officials. Li Jianjun is a former reporter for Shanxi Evening Post, who now lives in exile in Hong Kong. Li received several death threats after reporting about the corruptions of Song Lin, Chairman of top state-run company China Resources. Tibetan monk Jigme Gyatso has also been arrested several times for filming the Tibetan documentary movie “Leaving Fear Behind.”
Three out of the four honored Chinese people have either been in prison or are still in prison. Li Jianjun, exiled in Hong Kong, indicated that he’s glad to be honored on the list. However, he’s also sad, because one needs to sacrifice a great deal to tell the truth in China.
Li Jianjun, former reporter, Shanxi Evening Post: “Firstly, I’m very grateful for the recognition of our efforts by Reporters Without Borders. But I’m also sad that three of us have been put in prison, or are still residing in prison. I am the only one not in prison, but I’m in exile. Thus I’m very sad. It is my biggest hope that one day in this world people aren’t persecuted for telling the truth.”
Huang Qi, founder of 64tianwang, was also winner of the Reporters Without Borders Cyber-Freedom Prize in 2004. This was awarded for his reporting information that had been banned by the CCP authorities. Huang has been imprisoned for a total of 8 years during the past 14 years. In 2000, Huang helped parents who lost children in an earthquake in Sichuan to collect information about collapsed schools. He subsequently published an article online about these poorly constructed buildings. He was sentenced to 3 years in prison for “illegal possession of state secrets.”
Huang indicated that he does not regret the price he paid even though the regime’s crackdown never stops.
Huang Qi, founder of 64tianwang: “In 2000, I was put in prison because tianwang revealed that Falun Gong practitioners died from persecution. We provided information on victims of June 4, and that 200,000 farmers were forced to remove their appendix. When I think back, I truly don’t feel regret. I think we’ve done things that are worthy of conscience.”
Liu Hu, former reporter for Modern Express, is still in prison. Reporters Without Borders says Liu had posted information about embezzlement by local official Ma Zhengqi, on Weibo. Liu also reported at least three scandals of CCP officials, including scandals of the President of Shanghai High Court and Director of Shanxi Public Security Bureau. By arresting him, the regime successfully silenced Liu Hu, and other reporters who leak information on the internet.
Tibetan monk Jigme Gyatso is different from the other three. He’s persecuted for creating the documentary film, “Leaving Fear Behind.” The 25 minute film interviewed 108 Tibetan people. Reporters Without Borders says the film had a secret premiere during the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Jigme Gyatso was arrested and sentenced to 7 months in prison, where he was beaten and tortured. In 2012, he was secretly detained by the authorities again, and has been missing since.
Reporters Without Borders indicates that the 100 Information Heroes can’t include all the people who fight for freedom. A lot more people remain unknown. No matter whether they are professional journalists or not, they’re using different ways to promote freedom of information. “Without their determination…it would be simply impossible to extend the domain of freedom.”