A group of men attacked a Western journalist on Wednesday as he reported from the Chinese village of Panhe, where anger over land swaps erupted into protests this month and ignited comparisons to last year’s rebellion in the town of Wukan, the Foreign Correspondents Club of China said on Thursday.
The journalists’ association said in an internal statement sent to its members, but published on the Shanghaiist blog, that “a group of thugs and men who appeared to be plainclothes policemen” had attacked and “beaten up” a Dutch journalist from the Netherlands Press Association, Remko Tanis, on Wednesday morning.
He had succeeded in entering the village early in the morning, when the police officers who have guarded its access roads were still asleep, the statement said:
At around 9h45 a group of around 100 policemen and thugs smashed violently into the room where Tanis was conducting interviews and started to beat the villagers and the reporter. During the tumult, the correspondent was grabbed by two people from the local Foreign Affairs Office who pushed him into a car. He asked for his bag, which had been taken by the policemen/thugs, and got it back.
He was driven towards the town of Longang, from where he had left in the morning. On the way, the car encountered a group of about 10 thugs who stopped it. These men pulled everyone, including the officials, out of the car, beat Tanis again and took his bag.
With a bit of understatement, Mr. Tanis was quoted by the association as saying afterward that “getting in touch with the people in Panhe is risky.” Foreign correspondents were cautioned to be “especially alert” when reporting on unrest in the town, which began in early February.
With comparisons to Wukan reportedly sprouting up on China’s social media sites, Global Times, the nation’s state-run English-language newspaper, published on Thursday a terse summary of events in the town.
The state news media report appeared calibrated to minimize the scale and importance of unrest there, saying roughly 200 protesters had marched and their grievances were being heard.
The report, while acknowledging clashes between security forces and protesters, appeared to indicate that the protests had ended. “The police removed the blockade and put up a notice saying that the government will pay all medical treatment fees for villagers hurt in the protests, local villagers said,” according to the report.
The protests in Panhe, in the eastern province of Zhejiang, have emerged under similar circumstances to those in Wukan, where villagers forced out the local Communist Party officials and took over the town briefly during an open rebellion in December. In both cases, land seizures by the government, a common practice in China, incited protests after an apparent failure in negotiations over compensation between local officials and a group of village representatives.
“Officials from the village sold land; this land originally belonged to the villagers,” a person in Panhe told the Chinese-language broadcaster NTD television, which is based in New York and highly critical of the Chinese government. Another told the broadcaster last week that most of the village had turned out to protest: “I have even seen kids coming out, passing by my building.”
Shanghaiist also reported a second beating of reporters in the town in recent days. Two journalists from France 24, a reporter, Baptiste Fallevoz, and his Chinese fixer, Jack Zhang, told the blog that they had been attacked by a mob in the town after their car was rammed:
About 20 to 30 plainclothes thugs then surrounded their car and pulled Zhang out, trying to grab his video camera from him (he was not filming at the time). When they got the camera, they threw it on the ground and smashed it in front of him. They then continued to attempt to attack Zhang, hitting him on the head with the camera until he started bleeding.
Mr. Fallevoz was not harmed, and afterward the police said that villagers had attacked them because of an unspecified local rivalry, Shanghaiist reported, adding that the pair were compensated 45,000 renminbi, or about $7,100, for injury and damage to their equipment. It was not immediately clear who paid that sum to the journalists.