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Newspaper reporter in coma after beating in Xinjiang

(RSF/IFEX) - Sun Hongjie, a newspaper reporter based in Kuitun, in the northwestern province of Xinjiang, is in a deep coma since 20 December 2010 as a result of the head injuries he received when he was attacked by four or five men on the night of 18 December. Sun worked for the provincial daily "Beijiang Chenbao" ("Beijang Morning Newspaper").

Reporters Without Borders is saddened to learn of Sun's severe injuries and voices its full support for his family and colleagues.

In view of the suspicious nature of the attack, Reporters Without Borders urges the local and national authorities to carry out a transparent investigation that examines all the possible motives. If the authorities want to prevent any rumours about the underlying reasons for Sun's attack, it is in their interest to conduct an impartial and exhaustive investigation.

Murders attempts of journalists are sufficiently rare in China for the police and judicial authorities to be ready and able to move quickly on this case. The last confirmed case of a murder of a journalist was in 2007.

The attack on Sun took place as he was returning home. His assailants dragged him to a deserted construction site and beat him over the head. Doctors declared him brain-dead yesterday morning.

The local authorities have already arrested six suspects. But Sun's colleagues insist that it was not, as the police are claiming, an ordinary case of violent robbery or a brawl outside a bar. Sun's attackers did not take his wallet or mobile phone and did not beat him up in the standard fashion. They just hit his head.

His colleagues say he was working on a sensitive story about the demolition of housing to make way for new homes for officials. Speaking on condition of anonymity, one colleague told fellow-journalists that Sun had "an idealistic vision of journalism."

The authorities lost no time in saying that Sun's attack has nothing to do with his work as a journalist and have ordered the staff of Beijiang Chenbao not to post any information about the case online. Their haste and censorship attempts have just fuelled the suspicions of many observers.

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