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Journalists protest savage attacks on colleagues

Hundreds of journalists in Hong Kong protest against brutality faced by media in China
Hundreds of journalists in Hong Kong protest against brutality faced by media in China

Kin Cheung/Associated Press via

A number of journalists from Hong Kong are among those who have been brutally assaulted and harassed in mainland China in the last two weeks as authorities continue to control independent coverage of ethnic violence as well as local crime, report the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Three accredited Hong Kong TV journalists covering protests in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province, on 4 September were "kicked, punched, shoved to the ground, handcuffed by police and detained for about three hours" reports HKJA. TVB reporter Lam Tsz-ho, his cameraman Lau Wing-chuen, and Now TV cameraman Lam Chun-wai were trying to get away from tear gas and were forced to remain lying on the ground, their hands tied for 20 minutes, says RSF. Tsz-Ho told RSF the police beat them with batons and confiscated the video they had recorded.

Five other Hong Kong reporters were briefly arrested in Urumqi the same day, says RSF, and the police seized the equipment of an Associated Press Television News crew, barring them from filming protests. The equipment was returned five hours later.

News reports say thousands of Han Chinese took to the streets in early September in the city of Urumqi to protest a series of syringe attacks blamed on the province's Uighur Muslims. Both Han Chinese and Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim, minority ethnic group, are responsible for killing members of the other ethnic group. Devastating violence that broke out in July points to problems with China's policies towards minorities; at least 184 people were killed.

Meanwhile, hundreds of journalists protested in Hong Kong on 13 September, over the brutality faced by colleagues in China, news reports say. They called on authorities in Xinjiang and Beijing to end media repression. The Xinjiang government has blamed the journalists for inciting unrest.

Mak Yin-ting, chairwoman of HKJA, told "Agence France-Presse" (AFP) that media workers were angry over the "outrageous and blatantly false" allegations against the journalists.

"This is a violent trampling on press freedom," she told AFP."It is not a single incident. Even last year, lots of our journalists were beaten while reporting in China. The situation is getting worse now."

Meanwhile, two Beijing-based reporters employed by Hong Kong media outlets were detained in a hotel in Chengdu, in Sichuan province, on 12 August blocking them from covering the trial of a blogger, Tan Zuoren, according to RSF. Another journalist Liu Manyuan was hospitalised after being viciously beaten by security guards in the industrial city of Dongguan (in the south eastern province of Guangdong) on 31 August. In an interview with a Guangzhou TV station, Liu said he was about to take photos at a murder scene when he was ordered to leave by uniformed guards acting on orders from a superior. They then attacked him.

"The authorities will be hard put to rein in the disturbing rise in cases of violence against the press unless those responsible are dealt with in a firm but proportionate manner," RSF said. "The climate of social and ethnic tension in Xinjiang and the rest of the country do not justify such attacks, which seem to be acts of censorship, targeting investigative journalists above all. The excuses of the local authorities are clearly not sufficient."

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