The Chinese government heavily censors domestic media. This is not a secret to anyone, least of all Chinese journalists. However, the Chinese government has taken outrageous steps to restrict people’s freedom of thought as technology has advanced.
Recent reports from Chinese journalists living in countries with free media show the Chinese government is now targeting the families of expatriate journalists in an attempt to exercise media control even outside its borders.
With access to the Internet, expatriate Chinese journalists are able to spread their message without fear of punishment. Without being able to directly jail and punish these journalists, the Chinese government has begun harassing and arresting family members still living in China.
While the Editorial Board believes the United States should respect the sovereignty of China, our own commitment to free speech has been afforded to foreign visitors as well as citizens. By remaining complacent with the way China bullies journalists living in America, we are failing to properly protect the First Amendment.
It is also a violation of our sovereignty. China is trying to control what goes on inside another country on the pages of our newspapers. It’s hard to believe the Chinese, put in a similar position, would allow Western countries to take similar actions against them.
The Obama administration has a duty to all journalists to uphold their Constitutional rights against both domestic and foreign threats.
This situation demands a careful response, one that does not escalate to violence but at the same time shows the Chinese government that these actions cannot continue.
Trade sanctions, which apply economic pressure to force change, are typically what is proposed in situations like this.
The U.S. already has a laundry list of complaints against recent actions taken by China, including aggressive posturing in the South China Sea, currency manipulation, violations of international intellectual property rights law and territorial claims on the Senkaku Islands.
Whenever Obama or the next president decides to take action on these issues, the targeting of expatriate journalists families should be resolved as well.
Economic sanctions do seem like the best course of action. China is still a developing nation — its economy is sensitive. With recent stock crashes and recessions, Chinese people and businesses are nervous for the country’s future prosperity.
Having predicted strong growth for the future, the Chinese government will be hesitant to jeopardize the economy.
China is quickly integrating into world markets and the global community. Already, China is a leader on the global stage. Given its stature in world politics, the Chinese government ought to reexamine its egregious human rights practices.
The U.S. should use the issue of targeting journalists’ families to send a clear message to China that this sort of behavior is unacceptable and won’t be allowed to continue.