Expressen: China harden its technical monitoring of Swedish journalists in the country

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his regime are increasing the pressure on foreign journalists in China. Photo: CHINE NOUVELLE / SIPA / SHUTTERSTOCK

It is becoming increasingly difficult for foreign journalists to work in China and more and more people are being forced to leave the country. Swedish reporters say that they are constantly monitored at work, both electronically and by plainclothes police who shadow them, Swedish media Expressen reports.

According to Björn Djurberg, SR’s correspondent in Beijing, “The technical monitoring has hardened, in addition, you risk getting shadowed when you are not at work.”

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club in China (FCCC) writes in its latest report that at least 18 foreign journalists have been expelled from or forced to leave China in the past year. It is an expression of an increasingly harsh climate where the authorities monitor and intimidate journalists and use revoked visas as a threat, the report says.

Expressen writes that Swedish correspondents on site describe how the authorities constantly monitor them at work. They are using an increasingly advanced system, which is getting tougher every year, with electronic control, cameras, and police and security men, both in uniform and in civilian clothes, who follow the journalists.

“It was immense control from the time we set foot in China. A policeman met us at the airport. Then we had people following us all the time, Björn Djurberg says in a radio interview with Swedish P1 about a recent visit to the Xinjiang region

“It became very clear that people were shadowing us. They stopped when we stopped, they made exactly the same turns. If you turned around, the person turned around and looked at the wall or their phone, he said.

Björn Djurberg was in the city of Kashgar in Xinjiang, the province where China, according to human rights groups, commits severe abuses against the Muslim ethnic group the Uighurs. He said that he and his colleagues were also shadowed by cars on the roads, a car in front of their car, and a car following them. He also said he had been subjected to surveillance in other places in China as well.

According to China expert Jojje Olsson, working conditions for journalists have always been poor in China, but the situation has worsened in recent years. He says it has to do with the geopolitical game and China’s increasingly aggressive foreign policy – and with the regime wanting to hide abuses in Hong Kong and, above all, against the Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Jojje Olsson runs his own site Kinamedia and writes about China for Expressen and other media. He says that the authorities are increasingly using journalists’ accreditation and visas as a means of pressure. More and more correspondents receive visas that are valid for less than a year. “It is easy for a journalist to have their visa taken if the reporting is questioned. It is important that reporters on site do not engage in self-censorship to safeguard accreditation, he says. Jojje Olsson lives in Taiwan after previously reporting for many years from China. 

Read the Expressen’s full article in Swedish and more on the subject here

About Mette Larsen

ScandAsia Journalist • Scandinavian Publishing Co., Ltd. • Thailand

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