The Epoch Times is a popular newspaper in the Chinese global community and with those seeking more in-depth and insightful reporting on Chinese issues than what is available in mass media. When the newspaper began printing its scathing “Nine Commentaries” on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), printers in Hong Kong could not print them fast enough to satisfy eager readers. After an initial run of 30,000 copies, addition printings were ordered. Soon they ran out of paper before printing almost a million copies. Visitors from China carried the copies of the commentaries back into the mainland.
As previously reported by Accuracy in Media, the commentaries have been credited by the newspaper and prominent leaders of the expatriate Chinese community, like Harry Wu of the Laogai Research Foundation, with sparking a mass exodus from the CCP and its affiliated organizations. Those tracking the resignations say over one million have resigned. A recent university study on China’s Internet filtering processes found that all of the Epoch Times web pages were blocked in China and 90% of all google search results for “Nine Commentaries” were successfully blocked.
Given the remarkable effectiveness of The Epoch Times’ journalism, it’s therefore not surprising that pressure has been brought to bear on Hong Kong printers of the newspaper to cease production. The newspaper isn’t naming those printers for fear additional pressure from Chinese state authorities would ensue. “Anyone voicing difference of opinion with the CCP becomes a target,” said Epoch Times editor Cheryl Ng. Ng, speaking with AIM from her office in Hong Kong, said the paper received an outpouring of public support once readers learned of the coming shutdown. A “Notice to Inform Hong Kong Residents” had been published on May 12, alerting them to the possibility that the newspaper may cease publication if it could not find a printing partner willing to do business with them. One reader told the newspaper “there is finally a newspaper that speaks for the people suffering in China” noting that those who experience “injustices” cannot speak about them for fear of further repression.
The newspaper also published a statement from Editor-in-Chief Zhu Tongbin who said the Epoch Times Board of Directors decided to make the issue public in order to “expose the tactics of the CCP,” adding “the world should not have to tolerate their [CCP] hoodlum behavior.” Tongbin also said this was the second time the newspaper had to look for another printer due to interference by the CCP.
The newspaper was not sure they would be able to print come May 16. Just in time, though, they found a printer who was willing to offer them a temporary deal. “We didn’t have enough time for trial runs on the new presses,” said editor Ng. “We also had to manually stack the papers, so there was an extra workload involved, but we were able to deliver?We feel very lucky Epoch Times is able to continue.” Prior to the temporary printing setback the Hong Kong edition of Epoch Times had a circulation of 46,500. They were forced to reduce that number to 40,000 due to the need to manually stack the newspapers prior to delivery.
AIM has also reported on the similar situation of New Tang Dynasty Television, an independent Chinese-language network based outside of China, which was broadcasting documentaries based on the Nine Commentaries into China. Soon state authorities exerted pressure and influence upon Paris-based satellite operator Eutelsat to discontinue New Tang Dynasty broadcasts into the mainland. The Eutelsat decision to accede to Chinese state interests by refusing to renew NTDTV’s contract is currently a matter in negotiation, scheduled to end on May 22. NTDTV Vice President Samuel Zhou told AIM, “Your article on NTD-Eutelsat incident has recently received a lot of attention and was translated into Chinese and published by a number of Chinese websites.” AIM also granted the request of Epoch Times to publish the article in the US, Europe and Australia. Sources close to the negotiations, however, say “Games are still being played.” Eutelsat was offered a previously elusive contract by ChinaSatCom, after the state-owned company wrote them a letter urging them to discontinue NTDTV’s broadcasts. In addition, Eutelsat scored a potentially lucrative memorandum of understanding paving the way for further business deals with the Chinese state.
Time will tell whether international outrage over these incidents will change the minds of those previously willing to submit to the Chinese regime’s bullying, intimidation and gagging of the free press. So far, NTDTV and Epoch Times have played the part of the cat with nine lives, always landing on their feet and becoming more popular than ever, even as the Chinese state ups the ante with new harassment and interference tactics.