Press freedom in china: attack on ard television team

Thugs in China have again attacked German journalists. Apparently, the obstruction of correspondents has a system.

Protest for press freedom in China, Hong Kong 2009. photo: dpa

Officially, China’s new leadership promises transparency and more rule of law. But this new openness does not yet seem to have reached the local party secretary. For the second time in six months, a group of thugs attacked an ARD television crew. The assault occurred on Wednesday. Eyewitnesses report that the local party secretary could be involved. At least one of the vehicles involved in the assault is said to belong to him.

As reported by the Foreign Correspondents’ Association in Beijing (FCCC), the German television crew led by ARD director Christine Adelhardt only "narrowly escaped serious injury" after two thugs hit the ARD van with baseball clubs.

Adelhardt was traveling with two German and two Chinese staff members for filming in the village of Da Yan Ge Zhuang, 50 kilometers east of Beijing near the city of Sanhe. They had previously shot footage on the subject of urbanization, a sensitive topic in China – after all, it is very often associated with expropriation and forced evictions. Already during the filming, they were observed by men who seemed "suspicious" to her, Adelhardt reports. As a result, she stopped the work.

Baseball bats and fists

On their way back to Beijing, they were followed by four or five cars. The unknown men forced the ARD car off the road and forced a stop. Two men then attacked the vehicle and hit the windshield with baseball bats. Another six to eight people attacked the TV crew’s minibus with fists, Adelhardt reports. The ARD driver only managed to escape the attackers with difficulty.

When the team encountered two police officers on motorcycles and asked for help, the attackers overtook the TV team again and struck the vehicle again. More police officers then escorted the team to the Sanhe city police station. Representatives of the German Embassy from Beijing rushed to help. It took more than 16 hours to gather evidence, Adelhardt said.

Permission for filming

Last August, a group of thugs had already threatened and attacked the team during filming. At the time, ARD was conducting research outside a chemical plant in Henan province to report on the rampant environmental pollution in many regions of China.

Then, too, the team could only return safely to Beijing under police protection. Later, authorities claimed: Local residents had suspected the TV crew of industrial espionage. This time, Adelhardt says, a police officer in charge assured her that the TV team had not violated Chinese press law by filming. Nevertheless, it would have been better to obtain "permission" for the filming beforehand.

The obstruction of foreign correspondents in China obviously has a system. In a survey conducted by the FCCC, 98 percent of the journalists questioned said that international standards for reporting were not upheld.

Although it has been clearly regulated since the 2008 Olympic Games that interviews and filming are possible even without the express consent of the authorities, local officials and party leaders repeatedly deny reporters access to

certain places and intimidate potential interviewees. Longtime correspondents see a deterioration in the situation even compared to the 1990s.

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