China’s new & improved open media

This just out from the Foreign Correspondents Club of China:

Dear Colleagues,

We’ve received the following report of an incident in which plainclothes thugs tussled with a German TV crew to prevent their interview with Yuan Weijing, wife of imprisoned activist Chen Guangcheng, in Shandong. Although there were no injuries, this was apparently quite a worrisome situation. We thought you’d be interested to know about it.

FCCC

THUGS INTERFERE WITH GERMAN TV CREW IN SHANDONG, THROW STONES

JAN. 24, 2008 — Six to seven plainclothes thugs prevented a four-person ARD TV team from approaching the home of Yuan Weijing in a Shandong province village. It was the second attempt in two weeks by Germany’s ARD to talk with Yuan, wife of imprisoned blind human-rights activist Chen Guangcheng.

During the first attempt, police had arrested Yuan’s brother shortly before the team arrived. In the more recent incident, two of the thugs had stones in their hands and threatened the journalists. During the brawl that ensued, the cameraman fell to the ground. One of the thugs hit the camera with a stone, but didn`t destroy it. The team was not beaten but the journalists were threatened, insists ARD correspondent Jochen Graebert.

Although nobody was injured, he says, “these guys were like fighting robots. It was a dangerous situation.” After the team retreated to the outskirts of the village, Yuan came out of her house but was prevented from speaking to the media.

“Fighting robots.” Exactly. No thought or conscience, just doing as told, the banality of evil.

From now through August, each of these stories will be framed around the Olympics, like the Hu Jia article I posted yesterday. I wonder if they had any idea what they were getting themselves into when they signed on the IOC’s dotted line. Based on stories I’ve heard, I would conclude no – they had no idea, and they are totally paralyzed now that they realize the international media cannot be controlled by an edict from on high.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 4 Comments

I’m always conflicted about stuff like this. On the one hand, it’s important to get people’s stories out in international media; on the other hand, the mere presence of foreigners is almost always guaranteed to be an exacerbating factor either in leading to low thuggery like this or in actually resulting in further trumped-up charges, as happened following the 2002 Liaoyang protests, when the two organizers saw their treatment worsen after speaking to foreign reporters, and their lawyer was forbidden to meet with them because the case supposedly involved “state secrets.”
On January 20, there was a blogger-organized get-together to bring baby food and other things to Hu Jia’s wife Zeng Jingyan, who remains under house arrest with the couple’s new baby. I ended up deciding that my presence there, as a foreigner, would not be constructive and could indeed lead to the whole group being blocked from entering the apartment building.

January 31, 2008 @ 1:50 pm | Comment

I feel your conflict. But it is China who is inviting in reporters with open arms and promising openness. Can we blame reporters who take them up on it?

Wherever foreign journalists go in China, at least when they’re outside the coastal cities, they are going to be noticed and the thugs will come out. Should the reporters therefore not go to the site of alleged abuses of power, because their presence might make things worse? Tough call. Also, the fact that the above incident has now become an international issue may help bring relief. Maybe.

January 31, 2008 @ 3:14 pm | Comment

“I’m always conflicted about stuff like this. On the one hand, it’s important to get people’s stories out in international media; on the other hand, the mere presence of foreigners is almost always guaranteed to be an exacerbating factor”

I would certainly feel the same dilemma, which is what the thugs are going for; get journalists/bloggers to back off lest worse consequences ensue.

However, activists like Chen Guangcheng and Hu Jia, not to mention their wives, are commendable for their courage in the face of such abuses. I’m sure if it were up to them they would encourage you to get the story out there. And that’s what every foreign journalist should endeavour to do in these cases, especially in the run-up to the Olympics as the Games provides some cover from the image-conscious CCP bullies.

January 31, 2008 @ 5:52 pm | Comment

I think it is the IOC that did not know what it was getting the world into when it accepted China’s bid (and the bribes, promises of business for committee members’ countries and sexual favors that came with it).

Now it is too late for both sides.

February 1, 2008 @ 2:32 pm | Comment

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