Five Reporters Got Assaulted For Fenghuang Bridge Collapse Coverage

(Tianya)  People's Daily Reporter Assaulted While Gathering News In Fenghuang.  August 16, 2007.

[in translation]

At 11:30am on August 16, a People's Daily reporter together with a China Youth Daily reporter, a Southern Metropolis Daily reporter, an Economic Observer reporter and an Observe Orient Weekly reporter went to the Baiqing Hostel where the families of the victims of the Fenghuang bridge collapse were placed.  The family of Chen Jiaxiang from Lianyuan had five dead men, and the women and elders were crying with sorrow.

There was nobody at the reception.  The local government required that only reporters with press permits be allowed at the scene of the accident and the scene of the medical treatment, but no press permit was required at the hostel.  The reporters felt that their news gathering was legal.  At around 11:30am, a middle-aged man with glasses and red-clothes came in to ask us to show our work permits.  At the time, he did not identify himself and we obviously refused.  About 10 minutes later, the man brought in a group of seven or eight people including 3 women.  He demanded aggressively for us to show our work permits.  So Wang Weijian said that he was from People's Daily and he asked the other party to show his work permit.  But they did not show their work permits.  They only said that they were workers.  They wanted us to leave.  We said that we were tourists and we have the right to be there.  The men in red clothes said, "If you are tourists, you better leave!"  At the time, Wang Weijian was sitting with his back to the door.  Someone shoved him hard in the head, and then repeated that.  It was a man wearing white and about 1.75 meters tall (I felt that he was an enformer).  He came up and tried to grab Wang Weijian's wrist.  When he did not succeed, he went and shoved Wang a few times.

By that time, the other reporters came up to stop the man in white.  During the tussle, someone kicked the China Youth Daily reporter and they kept assaulting us.  The four reporters at the scene took out their identity documents and explained who they were, but they were still assaulted by seven or eight people for almost five minutes. (the Economic Observer reporter had gone out to photocopy something but he was assaulted when he returend).

At that time, the People's Daily reporter Wang Weijian stood up and stood in front of the other four reporters.  Since Wang had the work permit, he pointed to his own face and told the man in white: "You hit me in my face.  You can hit me hard."  Of course, the man was scared to hit his face, but he continued to hit the rest of us.  At that time, Wang saw that the situation was getting out of control and he took out his press card.  He said, "I am from the People's Daily."  Then they stopped, even though they still wanted to charge at us!  During the whole episode, the reporters were relatively restrained.  Wang Weijian and Hong Kefei received more injuries than the rest.

By that time, we had called the police.  When the police arrived, they called us and said that they could not find the location.  Therefore, they asked the reporters to go downstairs to show them the way.  But the man in red and his people blocked us from going and restricted our movement.  The police eventually found us.  They were led by a deputy squad leader named Yang.  They examined the identity papers of the five of us.  But the police did not examine the identity paper of the man in red.  Deputy squad leader Yang held a private conversation with the man in red.  Later, we were taken down to the police reception center in a white van.

According to informed sources, the man in red was the local Department of Agriculture director and the attackers all worked for the Department of Agriculture.

Wang Weijina, Hong Kefei, Long Zhi and the other two were brought down to the local police station to take notes.  A deputy county mayor named Tian in charge of agriculture was also down at the police station.  According to the reporters, during the note-taking, Xiangxi party standing committee member snad publicity department director Zhou Xiaomao came down to the police station and pulled Tian aside to ask who the reporters were.  When he learned that there were people from People's Daily and Xinhua/Obseve China, Zhou immediately told those reporters: "I apologize on behalf of the locals for this infelicitous event."

Then Zhou turned around and told the reporters from China Youth Daily, Southern Metropolis Daily and Observe Orient Weekly, "Apart from People's Daily and Xinhua, all of you are gathering news illegally.  We will take steps against you for these illegal activities."  At that time, someone began videotaping these reporters.

China Youth Daily reporter Hong Kefei protested.  Zhou said that he was going to get the Hunan provincial external publicity department to fix us.  Hong immediately dilaled the telephone number of the Hunan provincial external publicity department and Zhou backed off.

Hunan provincial publicity department deputy dirctor Kong Huoping arrived at the scene and stopped the videotaping of the reporters by Fenghuang.  He invited the reporters to a conference room on the fourth floor of the county party committee hostel.  He invited the reporters to attend the press conference that afternoon.  He promised that he will form a team to investigate the assault on the reporters.

The reporters said: The five newspaper reporters were there to interview the families of the victims.  We wanted to understand what was happening.  The local leaders from the hometowns of the victims were there and they supported our efforts.  But somehow this episode happened.  The five of us represented five newspapers in order to gather news.  We were carrying a public service on behalf of our five newspapers.  The man in red had no right to punish people and their assault on us was totally illegal.  There is no possibility for settlement between us.  We hope that the local government will handle this case seriously and reveal the identity of the man in red and the basis by which he assaulted us.  Afterwards, deputy director Tian of Fenghuang county was exceedingly arrogant ... if this case does not get handled satisfactory, we will personally sue the Fenghuang government.

Footprint from kick on the hip of the China Youth Daily reporter

Woman in white skirt leaning against the wall is one of the attackers

   当时接待处没有什么人。当地政府规定到事故现场和救治现场必须要有采访证才可以的,但是这里是不需要采访证的地方,记者们表示他们的采访和合法的。大 约到
11点半有一个戴着眼睛、穿着红色衣服的中年男子进来就向我们索要工作证,当时他并没有表明身份,我们当然拒绝了。大约过了10分钟,红衣男子带了一 批人,大概有78个,其中有3个女子。很嚣张的让我们出示工作证。然后王伟健就说我是人民日报的,需要对方出示工作证;他们并没有出示工作证,只是说工 作人员。他们要赶我们走,我们说就是游客,也有权在这里,红衣男子说,是游客,那你就走!王伟健当时是背对着门坐的,有人就重重地推了他的头,而且推了两 下。原来是一个穿着白色衣服的男子,身高大约在1.75米左右(我感觉是打手)。他上来抓住王伟健的手腕,没有成功,又冲上前推了他几下。
    这个时候人民日报记者王伟健就站出来了挡在他们四位面前,因为王有证件,同时王指着自己的脸对白衣男子说:你打我脸吧,可以狠狠的打。他当然不敢打脸了, 但是还在暗地里打我们。这时候,王看无法控制场面就拿出证件说:我是人民日报的。他们才住手,但是还想冲上来!整个过程记者们是比较克制的,王伟健和洪克 非受的伤比较重。

(  (note: This item has been 'harmonized')  August 16, 2007.

At 16:45pm on August 13, the Dixi bridge under construction in Fenghuang county, Xiangxi Autonomous Region, Hunan province collapsed.  As of 9pm last night, out of the 123 persons working at the bridge, 64 survived, 37 died and 22 are missing.  According to a reporter, he and reporters from People's Daily, China Youth Daily, Southern Metropolis Daily were trying to gather news when they were surrounded and assaulted.  At the police station when the police recorded their statements, a person who claimed to be the Xiangxi party standing committee member and publicity department director said that the reporters were illegally gathering news and he wanted to take the reporters away for investigation.

At 11:30am on August 16, five reporters from People's Daily, China Youth Daily, Southern Metropolis Daily, Economic Observer and Observe Orient Weekly were gathering news at the hostel where the families of the victims were staying.  During the process, a 40-something-year old man in red clothes and wearing glasses came in and observed for a few minutes.  Then he exited and he brought seven or eight persons (including two middle-aged women) to the scene to prevent the People's Daily Hunan bureau reporter Wang Weijian from interviewing.  He claimed to be "a government person."  The reporters demanded that he produce identification but he did not.  Suddenly a man kicked Wang Weijian in the waist.  When China Youth Daily reporter Hong Kefei tried to stop this brutal act, he was also kicked.  When Southern Metropolis Daily reporter Long Zhi tried to intervene, he was assaulted by the other people brought along by the man in red.  Wang Weijian, Hong Kefei and Long Zhi received various degrees of injuries.

During the assault, the two other reporters called the police.  When the assault was done, the other party blocked the hostel exit to prevent the reporters from leaving.  The police arrived and stopped them.  The reporters asked the eyewitnesses who the man in red was, and an "informed source" said that it was the local Department of Agriculture director and the attackers were all people with the Department of Agriculture.

At past noon, Wang Weijina, Hong Kefei, Long Zhi and the other two reproeters were taken down to the local police station for their statements.  According to Long Zhi, during the note-taking, a man claiming to the Xiangxi party standing committee member and publicity department director came down to police station and said that only the People's Daily and Xinhua reporters will be received whereas the news gathering by the other reporters were illegal.  He wanted to take the other reporters away for investigation.

    8131645分许,正在拆架的湖南省湘西自治州凤凰县堤溪大桥发生坍塌事故。截至昨晚9时,在湖南省凤凰县沱江大桥施工的123名人员 中,有64人生还,死亡人数增至37人,有22人失踪。据前方记者透露,今日(816日)中午他与《人民日报》、《中国青年报》、《南方都市报》等记者 采访时突然遭到围殴,据现场人员透露是当地农业局局长带人所为。在派出所接受笔录的时,一位自称是湘西州委常委、宣传部长的男子来到派出所表示,记者的采 访行为是非法的,要带走记者查办。
816日)中午11点半《人民日报》、《中国青年报》、《南方都市报》、《经济观 察报》、《东方了望周刊》五名记者前往安置遇难者家属的招待所进行采访,在采访过程中一位身穿红色衣服看起来40多岁戴眼镜的矮壮男子进来观察了几分钟, 然后就出去了。过了几分钟,该红衣男子带了七八个人(其中有两名中年妇女)来到现场阻止《人民日报》湖南站记者王伟建采访,并宣称是政府的人。在被记 者要求出示证件拒绝后,一名男子突然一脚踢向了王伟建的腹部,《中国青年报》记者洪克非上前阻止该男子的野蛮行径也遭到了脚踢。《南方都市报》记者龙志上 前阻止,被红衣男子带来的其他人殴打。据称,现场的三名记者被对方七八人围起来殴打了近5分钟。王伟建、洪克非、龙志均有不同程度的受伤。