Mao’s nervous minders pursued us everywhere – John Gittings
Before handing over to my colleague Jonathan Watts in 2003, I covered a range of important stories to which I had been alerted by excellent reporting in the Chinese press or TV.
There were powerful exposes of mining and environmental disasters linked to official corruption, of the plight of migrant workers cheated out of their pay, and of lawless behaviour by local government mafias. There were discussions on the widening gap between rich and poor, on the criminal justice system, including the death penalty, and even (though rarely) on press freedom itself.
Yet the history of the Chinese media in modern times is more complex than a simple progression from less to greater freedom – and more worrying too. Instead of allowing restrictions to ease year by year – the logical policy for a regime claiming to be committed to political as well as economic reform – Beijing continues to impose periodic clamp-downs.