On 24 April 2018, the International Campaign for Tibet, together with FIDH and its French member organisation Ligue des droits de l’Homme, addressed an open letter to the Director General of Le Figaro, expressing their concern about the insertion of the supplement China Watch of the China Daily in the French newspaper every month since January 2015.
According to a major report on the growing Chinese influence in Europe published earlier this year, the use of paid media insert, by which China tries to create support for its interests and views abroad, started as early as in 1992, with the supplement “Reports from China” prepared by the China Daily and distributed in the U.S.. But the practice has been developing in recent years as print media have been struggling financially and searching for new revenue streams – among other publications concerned in Europe are Le Soir in Belgium, Zemia in Bulgaria, Handelsblatt in Germany, El Pais in Spain, and the Daily Telegraph in the UK, which started carrying China Watch in 2011.
Below is an unofficial English translation by ICT.
Mr. Marc Feuillée
Director General, Director of Publication
14 boulevard Haussmann
Subject: Insertion of China Daily Supplements
Brussels / Paris, April 24, 2018
Mr. Director General,
The International Federation for Human Rights and its member organizations the League for Human Rights and the International Campaign for Tibet wish to express their concern about Le Figaro’s monthly insertion since January 2015 of the ChinaWatch supplement of the China Daily.
The China Daily is an official press of the Chinese government, and its editorial line, far from the concerns of neutrality and objectivity of journalism, is in tune with the official propaganda and the interests of the Chinese Communist Party. This press organ is, in our view, part of the repression and blackmail of human rights activists, bloggers and journalists, aimed at extracting public “confessions” from them, which are then relayed by the official media. These methods violate the human rights and individual freedoms of those they target, intimidate dissidents and help intensify the climate of repression that has only become stronger since the arrival of President Xi Jinping in power.
Although it is stated that the China Daily “takes full responsibility for its content,” the layout of the ChinaWatch and its location in Le Figaro – often in the middle of the newspaper – makes it look like classic editorial content; Combined with the fact that supplements usually deal with current hot topics, it is likely to be confused by your readers with other articles published by Le Figaro. This is all the more problematic that the “information” discussed in these pages is generally at odds with the content of the articles of your contributors, who are well aware that the situation on the ground is more nuanced than official Chinese propaganda wants to show.
In view of these elements, our organizations would like to receive from Le Figaro information on the terms of the agreement with the China Daily.
Mr. Director General, we are aware of the difficulties that the print media currently face, and understand that your newspaper is looking for financial resources to maintain and continue its activities. However, it seems important to us to select external sources of funding and to refuse to spread propaganda from authoritarian states guilty of gross human rights violations such as China. It therefore seems fundamental to us that Le Figaro, if it wishes to continue to produce quality journalism and to maintain its credibility and legitimacy as an independent media, cease publishing the supplements of the China Daily as soon as possible.
We would appreciate a quick feedback on the issues raised in this letter, and remain at your disposal to engage in a discussion on this matter,
Director of Operations
Ligue des droits de l’Homme
EU Policy Director
International Campaign for Tibet
 See for example the cases of the publisher Gui Minhai, the human rights defender Peter Dahlin or the journalist Gao Yu in Activists, Journalists and Celebrities: China’s Televised Confessions, The New York Times, January 21, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/01/21/world/asia/china-televised-confessions.html. See also Scripted and Staged: Behind the Scenes of China’s forced TV denominations, Safeguard Defenders, April 2018, http://rsdlmonitor.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/SCRIPTED-AND-STAGED-Behind-the-scenes-of-Chinas-forced-televised-confessions.pdf
 For example on the situation in Tibet; see this ChinaWatch page of October 27, 2017, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/specials/FR27102017-P4.pdf, which gives the impression of a harmonious and respectful development of Tibet, while your journalists have a more nuanced vision (see for example http://premium.lefigaro.fr/international/2015/12/23/01003-20151223ARTFIG00187-dans-le-tibet-reve-du-parti-communiste-chinois.php)