Asia Society has announced that an Associated Press team has won the 2019 Osborn Elliott Prize for Excellence in Journalism on Asia.
In a series of stories titled “China Clamps Down,” the team explored how China’s ruling Community Party is asserting itself over its population in the Xinjiang region of Western China, and what this has meant for religious liberty, privacy, and minorities.
The Associated Press stories documented increased social control under Chinese President Xi Jinping. Their reporters risked detention to report from the far corners of the country, and probe its evolving architecture of repression.
Lead reporters on the series were Yanan Wang and Dake Kang, working with a team that included Ng Han Guan, Gerry Shih, Erika Kinetz, Martha Mendoza, Emily Wang, Sam McNeil, Lefteris Pitarakis, and Brian Skoloff.
The independent jury that awards the “Oz Prize” said: “The Associated Press spotlighted the human cost of Beijing’s use of technology, state power, and regressive social controls to clamp down on minority groups and certain religions. Despite tight state controls and surveillance, the AP reporters showed ingenuity, courage, and persistence in documenting the existence of detention camps and brutal family-separation policies for Muslim citizens of western China.”
AP reported on the growing number of internment camps in the Xinjiang region of Western China where an estimated one million Muslims are detained, according to a press release.
In one story, AP reporters uncovered a link between clothing produced by forced labor and U.S. markets, leading a U.S. importer to cut ties with the Xinjiang company and others in the U.S. to pull their clothing from their shelves. AP also revealed that as tens of thousands of ethnic Muslims are placed in detention, their children are being “re-educated” in orphanages where they are penalized for speaking in their native tongues. The team also reported on new pressures facing Christians in China and the extent of the government’s efforts to “Sinicize” Christianity.
Yanan Wang has reported in China since 2017. She has covered religious repression, Internet subcultures and even facial recognition-equipped toilet paper dispensers. A fluent Mandarin speaker, Yanan grew up in Toronto. Dake Kang is a multiformat journalist in the AP’s Beijing bureau. He joined the AP in 2016 as an intern and reported from New York, Bangkok and Cleveland before moving to China.
AP will be honored at a luncheon event and awards ceremony at Asia Society in New York on May 21. The New York Times’ Diplomatic Correspondent Edward Wong will moderate a discussion about the stories, and Jury Chair Marcus Brauchli will present the award.
The Oz Prize jury also recognized Mujib Mashal, The New York Times’ senior correspondent in Afghanistan as a finalist for the prize for his remarkable stories about the lives and deaths of everyday Afghans. Mashal, who grew up under Taliban rule in Kabul as the son of a laborer, won scholarships at Deerfield Academy and Columbia University, then returned to Kabul to cover Afghanistan.
Last year’s prize was awarded to Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo of Reuters, for their coverage of the Rohingya in Myanmar and Bangladesh that led to their imprisonment in December 2017. It was the first time in the prize’s 15-year history that the winners were jailed for their work. The two were released on May 7.
The Oz Prize jury is chaired by Marcus Brauchli, managing partner of North Base Media and former editor of the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, and also includes Dorinda Elliott, SVP/Director, Center for Business, China Institute; Mei Fong, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Director of Communications and Strategy at the Center for Public Integrity; Nisid Hajari, prize-winning author and member, Bloomberg editorial board; and Alec McCabe, Senior Editor, Emerging Markets, Bloomberg News.
Asia Society’s Oz Prize is the premier honor bestowed for excellence in journalism on Asia. The $10,000 cash award is presented annually to the best example of journalism about Asia during the previous calendar year. It honors the late Osborn Elliott, legendary journalist, author and former editor-in-chief of Newsweek. Elliott was a leading figure in the field of journalism who became one of the earliest practitioners of “civic journalism”—the deliberate focusing of the journalistic enterprise on urgent issues of public policy.
Previous winners of the Oz Prize are:
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, Reuters – stories on the plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar and Bangladesh (2018)
Ellen Barry, The New York Times – series on role of women in India’s society and economy (2017)
Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post – series on Afghanistan (2016).
Bloomberg News team – series on pollution and development in a Changing India (2015)
Reuters team – stories on the plight of Myanmar’s Rohingya (2014)
Bloomberg News team – Revolution to Riches series (2013)
April Rabkin, Fast Company – series on China (2012)
Keith Bradsher, The New York Times – series on China’s development of green technologies (2010)
International Herald Tribune team – coverage of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar (2009)
Shai Oster, Wall Street Journal – series on China’s Three Gorges Dam (2008)
Evan Osnos, Chicago Tribune – series on the global effects of China’s growth (2007)
Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times – reportage on North Korea and Matthew McAllesterof Newsday – series on Nepal (2006)
Philip P. Pan, Washington Post – stories on individuals challenging authoritarianism in China (2005)
John Pomfret, Washington Post – inside look at generational changes in China (2004)
Elisabeth Rosenthal, The New York Times – coverage of the AIDS crisis in China (2003).