Reporters At A Mining Disaster

Fve reporters from four different media organizations were trying to cover a mining disaster in Jilin province, China.  During the process, a group of men blocked their way, followed them around and ultimately assaulted them in public.  Please be mindful that there is an explicit law that makes it a crime to interfere with the reporting of matters of public interest such as mining accidents.

Now this is a somewhat unusual story because there were five reporters from four media organizations.  Afterwards, the reporters went back and wrote their own stories.  Two of these stories have been translated below.  It shows you the action from the viewpoints of three different reporters on the same chaotic scene.

(Changchun Evening News via Phoenix TV)  Reporters Covered the Mining Disaster at the Meihe Mine of the Liaoyuan Mining Department and were assaulted.  May 9, 2006.

On May 7, this reporter was gathering news on the accident at the Meihe mine of the Liaoyuan Mining Department and was surrounded and blocked.  On May 8, the reporter went with four other reporters from City Evening News, New Culture News and the Jilin Television Public Channel to Hongmei town again and follow up on the accident at the mine well of the Meihe mine of the Liaoyuan Mining Department.  But the reporters were not only followed, watched and blocked, they were even attacked by Meihe mine workers.  The five reporters sustained different degrees of injury.

At 11am on May 8, the group of five reporters went to the Meihe Mine Hospital.  As the reporters were about to enter the hospital, five or six men charged from the inside and forbade the reporters from entering.  A middle-aged man told the reporters that their leaders ordered them not to let reporters enter the hospital.  As such, they had no choice and they asked the reporters to consider their position.  So the reporters had to leave.

As the reporters walked towards the mine well in which the accident occurred, they found that a relatively skinny young man wearing a white jacket was following them.  So the reporters decided to split up into two groups.  This reporter and the male reporter from New Culture News were in one team and we went to the backyard of the mine.  As soon as we got near the iron gate at the backyard, a fat middle-aged man in a red jacket and a skinny middle-aged man in a dark gray suit blocked the us and used very rude language.  When the reporters wanted to take photographs, the men came up to jostle with them.  When the reporters to go somewhere, the fat man followed right behind.  The reporters asked him to leave them alone, but he said that it was his job.  The man followed the reporters all the back to the entrance of the Meihe Mine office and stood about 10 meters away from the reporters and watched him.

According to the reporter from the City Evening News, he and the Jilin TV reporters and the female reporter from New Culture News were gathering information on the road in front of the mine office and they were followed by the man in the white jacket.

At 2pm, the two groups of reporters gathered in front of the Meihe Mine office and decided to interview the mine director.  So the five of them walked into the Meihe mine and headed to the office.  When they reached the front door, more than 20 people charged out and stopped them.  The reporters identified themselves and asked to see the mining director.  A skinny middle-aged man said in a nasty way that the leader wanted the reporters to leave.  The reporter asked who he was.  He said that he was a mine security team member.  The reporter said that an ordinary mine security team member has no right to interfere with this matter.  

"Get these reporters out of there!" He screamed.  The people who had just come out of the building then rushed up and roughed up the reporters.  A thin man with a crew cut and a brown jacket punched this reporter in the chest.  These people chased the reporters back to the front gate.  One man punched this reporter twice in the chest and another man came and wanted to rip the camera away.  But this reporter fought hard and got away from then.  Then this reporter saw that the New Culture News male reporter was being surrounded and beaten by four to five people and he attempted to help him.  But another man stopped him and they were in a wrestling match.

The New Culture News male reporter, with his bloodied mouth, was finally able to get away and raced towards the Hongmei town public security station.  The City Evening News reporters was also being assaulted by four or five men.  During the beating, he was still holding his reporter's identification card up with his right hand.  When this reporter finally got away from the man wrestling with him, he saw the New Culture News female reporter come crying from the Meihe Mine guard station and so he yelled, "Call the police!"  And then he proceeded to race towards the New District public security station inside the Meihe Mine office building, but he was blocked by the people who were attacking the reporters.  When the attackers heard that the reporters had called "110," they dispersed.

By this time, there were several hundred spectators.  Several kind-hearted citizens told the reporters that the attackers were security team members at the mine.  Those people were usually quite high-handed and impossible to reason with.  The reporter noted that the scene of the assault was just over one hundred meters away from the New District public security station of the mine and also just one street away from the Hongmei town public security station.  This goes to show how these attackers did not care about the law.

About twenty minutes later, the militia police from the Hongmei town public security station arrived and took the reporters back to the station for notes.  According to director Meng, the scene of the crime was not within their jurisdiction.  Only because the New District public security station did not send people out did he showed up.  While the reporters were getting their statements taken, the Meihekou City public security bureau leaders also came and began to deal with this case.

The injury report was as follows:

New Culture News male reporter: swollen lower lip; lost his glasses

New Culture News female reporter: swollen right face

City Evening News reporter: swelling on right forehead

Jilin TV reporter: bruised right face

Changchun Evening News reporter: seven to eight punches to the front chest; one blow behind the neck.

At this time, the reporters are undergoing treatment at the Meihekou town Railroad Hospital.

(New Culture News via

The Journalist Association is the home of all journalists in our province.  We must firmly defend the personal safety and right to gather information of our frontline journalists and we must firmly oppose any activities that prevent the journalists from doing proper journalistic work.

     - Yan Zhenqi, Jilin Journalist Assocation vice-chairman and secretary-general

When journalists gather proper news, it is their duty and the various organizations and units should not censor the news or delay or make excuses or withhold passes or refuse to provide facilities unless there is a clear reason.  It is strictly forbidden to engage in activities such as restraining personal freedom, threatening personal safety and so on.  There must not be any retailiation taken against journalists.

     - "Temporary Regulations Concerning The Practical Protection Of the Legal Rights of Journalists"

With a span of three days, there were two incidents at the Meihe coal mine of the Liaoyuan Mining Department in Meihekou town, causing four deaths and many injuries.  On May 7, four media organizations including this newspaper went to gather news.  The reporters were blocked by a "human wall" and then they were "followed around."  The hospital in which the injured were present also stopped "accepting patients" and no one was allowed to enter.  The mine authorities have declined to disclose the cause of the accidents or the number of casualties.

Yesterday, this reporter went to the Meihe Coal Mine Hospital again.  When he arrived, the same scene as on May 7 occurred again.  Six men blocked the hospital entrance.  When the reporter displayed his identification, the men said that he would not be allowed to take one step into the hospital.  The men said: "The leader instructed us to block the entrance.  If you want to gather news, you should go see the leader."

Our reporters and those from the City Evening News, Changchun Evening News and Jilin TV Public Channel went to the number one well of the Meihe mine.  Once again, there were unidentified men guarding the entrances of the number one mine.  Everywhere the reporters went, they were followed.  When they tried to gather news, male strangers who claimed to be mine cadres prevented them.

The reporter later found out at the Aimin Hospital in Meihekou city that the mine worker named Cao whom the reporter interviewed on May 7 and who was still in critical condition has gone elsewhere.

At around 2pm, the reporters went to the Liaoyuan Mining Department Meihe Coal Mine.  At the office building entrance, the reporters from the four media organizations were blocked.  The men said: "Reporters, get out!"

Then a man began to grab the reporter's clothes and the men on the side also began to jostle the reporters.  When the reporter took out a camera to take photographs, many more men came out of the office and started to curse the reporters out.  A man in a yellow jacket jostled with this reporter and when the reporter wanted to take a photograph of the scene, the man used his elbow to smack the reporter's mouth, causing bleeding.  Afterwards, the man continued to wrestle and jostle.  At this time, the more than 20 men near the mine department office rushed up.  Five or six men grabbed this reporter's hair and used their fists to pound his face, back of the head, back and waist.  Several men also used their legs to kick this reporter.  The beating went on for five minutes.

During the beating, the reporter's glasses were broken.  A man in a yellow jacket attempted to grab the reporter's camera  The reporter had to shield the camera with both hands close to his stomach.  During the confusion, the reporter managed to run away and raced towards the Hongmei town public security bureau to report to the police.

While our reporter was being assaulted, the more than twenty people from Meihe Coal Mine also rushed towards the reporters from other three media organization.  One reporter raised his identification card to tell the people that it was against the law to beat people, but he was not spared a beating.  One male rushed up and punched the head of the City Evening News reporter.  Then someone else hit his face and neck.  The reporter stumbled and also fell to the ground, but the attackers did not stop their violent acts.

The Jilin TV Public Channel reporter took out his mobile telephone to call the police.  When they saw that, the attackers snatched the camera of the television station reporter.

When the female reporter saw what happened to her colleagues, she yelled loudly, "Don't beat people!"  At this time, two men came at her from behind.  The two dragged her by her clothes into the guard house and then closed the door.  They ripped at her clothes and her backpack and they threatened: "Quick!  Give us all the material that you have collected, or else we won't be so polite anymore."

"What are you doing?  You are acting illegally!"  The female reporter screamed and defended her body.  But the two men acted as if they had lost their minds and searched the female reporter's body by force.  The female reporter yelled: "You can't do that" and struggled with all her might.

The female reporter seized an opportunity to dash out of the guard house, but two men held her.  At this point, a crowd had gathered outside the coal mine building.  When the female reporter was dragged to the ground by the two men, she yelled aloud: "Save me!  Save me! ..."  The two men did not stop, and more men joined them to hit her head with their fists and feet.  Against the attacks by these strong men, the female reporter was unable to resist and could only yell "Save me!"  After two or three minutes, the men turned around and went back into the mine office courtyard.  The right face of the female reporter was bruised.  She was hit in the back of her head many times and she could not get back up on her feet until after a long while.

Although Meihe Coal Mine is situated within Tonghua city Hongmei town, it belongs to the Liaoyuan Mining Department.  Why did more than 20 coal mine workers assault the reporters in defiance of the law?  Were the men in suits and ties ignorant of the law, or were they ordered to do so?  The assaulters and those who blocked the reporters all claimed to be acting on the orders of the leader.  Who is this leader?  What is his position?

On May 8, the first report about the Meihe coal mine disasters came from four media organizations within the province.  Faced with this unprecedented attention, the Liaoyuan Mining Department still acted vigorously to prevent news gathering and infringe upon the public's right to know.  What was the goal?

From the time when the mining accident occurred on May 7 to 2pm on May 8 when the reporters from the four media organizations were assaulted, the Meihe Coal Mine leader did not appear.  The Liaoyuan Mining Department which overseas the Meihe Coal Mine had nothing to say either.  Were the mine authorities upset and therefore took revenge against the four media organizations, or was there something more behind the mining accident?

The mining authorities refused to let the reporters enter the hospital.  What were they trying to conceal?  According to local mine workers, there are six wells in the Meihe coal mine.  There is a system of work quotas, so that each shift must accomplish a certain amount of work or else fines are imposed.  The accident on May 7th at the number one well is related to this, as the deputy section chief had just been fined for not completing his work quota.

Another mine worker pointed out that the coal vein in the number one mine has basically been exhausted and there is no coal left.  Therefore, they are now working on the coal that was used for support.  The cause of the accident was therefore the consequence of acting in disregard of safety.  This mine worker also said that mine workers are continuing to work in the number one mine now, although the coal ore is not being taken through the well entrance.

After the Hongmei town public security bureau director arrived at the scene, the statements of the reporters were taken and the dozen or so people who took part in the assault were placed under control.

The news about the attack on the reporters quickly reached the Tonghua city party committee.  The propaganda department director Ji Xiaoguang designed deputy director Tian Wenhua to contact the Meihekou city party committee propaganda department to visit the reporters.  At the same time, the Tonghua city party standing committee member and public security bureau director Li Changming and Tonghua city public security standing deputy director Liu Hongkui ordered the Meihekou city public security bureau deputy director to go to the scene immediately and establish a case squad to investigate the assault on the reporters.  At this time, the beaten reporters are receiving medical treatment at a local hospital.

Afterwards, the spectators told the reporters that the attackers included security police and cadres from the coal mine.  Yesterday at 7pm, the reporter learned from the militia police that the police has interrogated some of the spectators and has established that some of those who attacked the reporters were members of the fire department at the mine.  The police has summoned several people who are suspected of beating the reporters, and one of them has been identified positively.  The police investigation is continuing.