Foreign Journalists Jumped in Panhe

Plainclothes henchmen attacked journalists from two European news organizations on Wednesday as they investigated land grab protests that began earlier this month in the Zhejiang village of Panhe, according to Shanghaiist:

France 24′s Baptiste Fallevoz and his Chinese fixer Jack Zhang tell Shanghaiist they were driving toward the village when they noticed a black car following them. After trying to evade the car and failing, they decided to just ignore it and continue towards the village.

As they approached Panhe, they passed four or five cars parked on the shoulder with men waiting nearby. They saw the men answer their cell phones, hurry into their cars, and join the black car behind them. When Zhang gradually slowed down for a truck crossing in front of them, they were suddenly hit from behind.

About 20-30 plainclothes thugs then surrounded their car and pulled Zhang out, trying to grab his video camera from him (he was not filming at the time). When they got the camera, they threw it on the ground and smashed it in front of him. They then continued to attempt to attack Zhang, hitting him on the head with the camera until he started bleeding.

The second journalist, Remko Tanis from the Netherlands, had a similar encounter before escaping to Wenzhou to write his story. Tanis’ photos from Flickr are regularly featured on CDT. The Committee to Protect Journalists interviewed Tanis about the attack.

The land dispute in Panhe dates back several years, according to The Global Times, when local officials began to gradually seize villagers’ land and sell it to property developers. Villagers elected representatives to negotiate with the government and demand compensation last summer, and say they have received nothing despite claims by some that the settlement payments are in process. The Global Times reported today that the protests had come to an end after security forces detained several people, according to locals:

Two villagers, Lü Xisi, 49, and Lü Yangyu, in his 40s, were taken away by “plainclothes agents” on Wednesday night and yesterday morning respectively, according to a 51-year-old Panhe villager surnamed Lü,

Three protests over land disputes were staged on February 1, 3 and 5. Several dozens of people who took part were detained on Tuesday, local villagers told the Global Times.

According to a notice issued by the a local official news website, the local authorities have paid close attention to the land dispute since the first protest.

A team was soon established by the county government to investigate. The team met with village representatives to address any reasonable demands made, the notice said.

But a few villagers incited others to destroy public property and establish roadblocks, which seriously disrupted social order. Three suspects had been arrested in connection with these events Wednesday, according to the notice.

Observers have referred to the ongoing situation in Panhe as “Wukan 2.0,” after protesters said they modeled their tactics after the Guangdong village which evicted local Communist Party authorities over similar complaints late last year.

Read more about foreign correspondents in China and about violence against journalists, via CDT.