Concern at Abuse of Foreign Journalists in China

Three China-based Foreign Correspondents’ Clubs have issued a joint statement condemning “alarming” recent episodes of harassment against foreign reporters. From the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong:

On July 28th, a Shanghai based journalist from Japan’s Asahi Shimbun was beaten by police in Nantong while covering a demonstration. His equipment, worth several thousand dollars, was taken and has not been returned.

On August 10th a reporter for Hong Kong’s Asia Television was assaulted by plain clothes police outside a courthouse in Hefei as he filmed members of the public being arrested.

On August 11th, in Henan province a television crew from ARD German television was attacked by a mob, accused of being spies and forcibly detained for 9 hours at a chemical factory before police escorted them to their vehicles.

On August 13th two reporters from Poland and the United States reporting in Ordos were followed and intimidated by three cars and at least eight individuals in the middle of the night.

While the organisations expressed particular concern that “a number of these incidents have involved members of the official security forces and associated elements”, the German reporters in Henan were rescued by police from an angry mob. From Tania Branigan at The Guardian:

Broadcaster ARD said angry workers shouted “kill the foreign spies” as the four-person team was held at the Do-Fluoride plant near Jiaozuo in Zhongzhan county, Henan province.

Reporter Christine Adelhardt said security guards detained them as they filmed a story on pollution outside the factory.

[…] The German crew escaped only when a team of armed police arrived to escort them off the premises, saying later: “Factory officials appeared to have misinformed workers and agitated against us.

“We were considered spies who had tried to gather intelligence regarding Do-Flouride’s technology.”

According to the Hong Kong Standard, other police also intervened and took away the plain-clothed officer who assaulted the Asia Television cameraman in Hefei. He was covering the trial of four officers later sentenced to prison terms of between five and eleven years for hiding Gu Kailai’s murder of Neil Heywood. CNN’s Steven Jiang was involved in a separate scuffle with Hefei police while reporting Gu’s own trial the previous day.

Asahi Shimbun’s Atsushi Okudera was beaten while photographing environmental protests in Qidong. According to his follow-up report for the newspaper, many of the officers who assaulted him had removed ID numbers from their uniforms, shielding themselves from any later repercussions. The attack on Okudera and the theft of his camera were likely a further attempt to escape identification, as he “had taken hundreds of digital photos by then of police attacking protesters.” (Protesters in Qidong also drew criticism for resorting to violence, which CEO and blogger Jian Shuo Wang wrote “seriously crossed the line”.)

Kathleen McLaughlin was one of the journalists “chased out of Ordos” during the politically sensitive Miss World pageant. She described her experience on Twitter:


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