On Tuesday March 5, Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta (NG, or Independent Newspaper) published an editorial in which it described how the Chinese Embassy conducted an unprecedented interference in Russia’s press freedom. An earlier article from this newspaper, on the Chinese economy, angered Beijing. A senior diplomat demanded that NG delete the article and threatened to blacklist the reporter.
The editorial was titled, “Chinese diplomat threatens NG journalist with blacklisting.” It had the subtitle, “Nezavisimaya Gazeta has become the object of unprecedented pressure from an employee of the PRC Embassy.” It stated that, “Among Chinese officials, there are those who consider it permissible to push the Russians, threaten us, and openly demonstrate disrespect for Russian laws.”
The editorial continued, “Recently, Chinese embassy officials have openly demanded that materials based on open statistical data, including Chinese state statistics, be removed from publication. At the same time, diplomats are very non-diplomatic about the president of the Russian Federation, about the potential of Russia, and they even openly threaten NG employees with certain blacklisting.”
“Meanwhile, under Russian law, interference with the work of the media or pressure on the editorial board is a criminal offense. ‘Hindering the lawful professional activities of journalists by forcing them to disseminate or to refuse to disseminate information’ is part of the crime under Art. 144 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. Any official who demands the removal of the NG’ material from publication may run the risk of going to prison for two years or at least receive a very serious fine.”
The earlier NG article in question, published on February 28, discussed the slowdown of the Chinese economy, the problems it is facing, and how it will affect Russia. The article quoted publicly available statistics and also quoted from Taiwanese media on social discontent due to the slowdown.
The Chinese embassy was outraged after seeing the article. Embassy press secretary Gou Yunhai emailed the reporter and demanded that he delete the article from NG’s website immediately.
The NG editorial quoted the email, “I’ll tell you categorically that you need to delete this article immediately from your newspaper’s website; otherwise you will be blacklisted and you will never be allowed to enter China!”
The email continued, “You’re lying!!! Has the Chinese economy slowed down???? Last year’s economic growth was more than 6 percent. What is your growth???? From the Chinese economy, Russia became infected??? … The GDP of only one Guangdong province is much larger than the whole of Russia. Where is our social displeasure???? I just felt great displeasure in Russian society, especially after Putin’s message.”
The editorial said at the end that, “This text can tell about the realities of Russian-Chinese relations more than any toasts and toasts of politicians.”
Source: VOA Chinese, March 5, 2019
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, March 5, 2019