Wukan: Press Expelled, Rewards Offered

The fishing village of , Guangdong remains under tight security following a violent clash between protesters and riot police early this week. The provincial governor earlier denied any crackdown as villagers described authorities’ excessive use of force to foreign media. The AP today reports that five Hong Kong journalists were expelled from the village after being assaulted and detained on Wednesday, as reports from elsewhere claim that a cash reward has been offered for information about foreign in Wukan:

Reporters from two Hong Kong newspapers, the South China Morning Post and the Chinese-language Ming Pao, were assaulted Wednesday night while conducting interviews and later detained for several hours, both newspapers reported. Two reporters from the news site Hong Kong 01 were also detained, the site said.

The South China Morning Post reported that a group of unidentified men stormed into a home and pushed the newspaper’s journalist to the ground. Ming Pao said some in the group were wearing police uniforms, and that someone punched its two journalists even after they had followed orders to squat on the ground.

The journalists were later taken to a police station and questioned for several hours, the newspapers reported. According to Ming Pao, a government official asked the journalists to sign a pledge not to do any more reporting.

Both newspapers and the news site said their reporters were eventually taken to the Hong Kong border. [Source]

The South China Morning Post has condemned the treatment of their reporter and the other four Hong Kong journalists:

The Post is highly concerned about the incident and condemn the of journalists.

[…] Our reporter and two other Hong Kong journalists from another publication were invited by a resident to a villager’s house for an interview on Wednesday.

[…] The Post journalist, who has proper journalist credentials issued by Beijing authorising him to work on the mainland, was released after questioning.

[…] The Hong Kong Journalists Association said in a statement issued on Thursday morning that it “strongly condemns Chinese public security officers’ violent treatment against the Hong Kong journalists”.

[…] The Hong Kong News Executives’ Association also “strongly condemns” the violence, urging relevant authorities to pay attention to and ensure journalists’ safety. [Source]

A joint statement from several other Hong Kong journalist associations also condemns the treatment of the reporters, and the Hong Kong government expressed concern over their detention prior to their reported release.

Authorities on Tuesday cracked down on over the recent sentencing of former village committee chief Lin Zuluan, who was elected in the democratic concessions won by high-profile village anti-corruption demonstrations five years ago. Domestic news on this week’s crackdown has been tightly censored by Beijing as authorities claimed that all had returned to normal in the small fishing village—a claim that was countered by video reports filed yesterday showing tight security and detained villagers.

Foreign journalists had reportedly been barred from entering Wukan, according to tweets from the BBC’s Stephen McDonell:

Reuters earlier this week published video and print reports with villagers’ firsthand descriptions of the violence used against them. Reuters’ Natalie Thomas tweeted yesterday:

Earlier this week, state run tabloid Global Times reiterated local authorities’ claims that all had returned to normal in Wukan, and also blamed the foreign media for spreading rumors, “unscrupulously inciting, planning, and directing chaos.” The Global Times editorial also claimed that a small number of Wukan villagers are “taking orders from foreign forces,” a claim reminiscent of a recent trend of blaming external hostility for domestic unrest. At Quartz, Zheping Huang reports that authorities have announced an award of 20,000 yuan for information leading to “foreign forces” in the village:

Authorities are on a hunt for foreign journalists inside Wukan village. BBC reporters were expelled from the scene earlier. Since Wednesday afternoon, loudspeakers have broadcast messages to villagers telling them that those who could offer clues to finding “foreign forces” hiding in the village would be awarded 20,000 yuan (about $3000), villagers told Ming Pao (link in Chinese). Earlier, police arrested 13 village protestors for “disturbing public space and transportation orders.” The reward for tips of the whereabouts of the five other wanted villagers is 100,000 yuan. [Source]

For analysis of Chinese media coverage of Wukan—from its 2009 “national civilized village” award from the People’s Daily, through the 2011 protests, 2012 democratic experiment, and the resurgent protests quashed this week—see a recent post from China Media Project’s David Bandurski. For an explanation of how Wukan’s story has always been far less seductive to the central government than to foreign observers, see a post from the Politics From the Provinces blog.