She was once one of China’s most feared journalists, roaming the country uncovering stories about police brutality, wrongful convictions and environmental disasters. But these days, Zhang Wenmin struggles to be heard.
The police intimidate Ms. Zhang’s sources. The authorities shut down her social media accounts. Unable to find news outlets that will publish her work, she lives largely off her savings.
“The space for free speech has become so limited,” Ms. Zhang, 45, said. “It’s now dangerous to say you are an independent journalist.”
China’s investigative reporters once provided rare voices of accountability and criticism in a society tightly controlled by the ruling Communist Party, exposing scandals about babies sickened by tainted formula and blood-selling schemes backed by the government.
But under President Xi Jinping, such journalists have all but disappeared, as the authorities have harassed and imprisoned dozens of reporters and as news outlets have cut back on in-depth reporting. One of the most glaring consequences of Mr. Xi’s revival of strongman politics is that the Chinese press is now almost entirely devoid of critical reporting, filled instead with upbeat portrayals of life in China under Mr. Xi.
Critics call it the “total censorship era.”
“We’re almost extinct,” said Liu Hu, 43, a reporter from the southwestern province of Sichuan who was detained for nearly a year after investigating corrupt politicians. “No one is left to reveal the truth.” [Continue reading…]