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Police witness assault on journalists, refuse to investigate

(IFJ/IFEX) - December 13, 2010 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is dismayed to learn that an assault on journalists in China was witnessed by police officers who then refused to investigate.

On December 10, a number of Hong Kong journalists based in Beijing divided into three groups and went to the house of Zhao Lianhai, who was convicted of "disturbing social order" on November 10 and sentenced to two years and six months' imprisonment. The journalists travelled to Lianhai's house in Beijing's Daxing District to investigate rumours that he had been released on medical parole.

When journalists and media crews arrived at Lianhai's apartment complex they were received by a large group of people including members of the complex's residential committee, a self-regulated local residents group.

According to reports, the journalists were prevented from getting close to the complex by the group. Cameras were shoved frequently by people and one of the journalists, W. P. Wong, was slapped by a woman wearing a residential committee badge. Wong, who was injured in the assault, asked for police to intervene but police neither stopped nor interrogated the suspect.

The journalist told Radio Free Asia that the police "did not take action and even said they would not care if I was to make a complaint."

"They even asked me to go to the hospital by myself when I complained I was hurt," Wong said.

Xinhua News Agency reported on November 11 that the government of Daxing District claimed journalists were blocking the area, creating an inconvenience for residents. A government representative said it respected journalists' right to report but they are also bound by local laws.

However a journalist who witnessed the incident said that more than 30 local people and members of the residential committee blocked the entrance of the residential area when the journalists approached.

The Government of Hong Kong pledged to follow up the incident after broadcaster RTHK released a statement which was critical of the incident.

"Assaults on journalists are disturbingly common in China, and the allegations of police complicity and inaction in this case require immediate and thorough investigation," IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

"We urge the Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu to investigate the attack and allegations that Daxing District police did not move to stop the incident or follow up allegations of assault."

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