AP photographer Han Guan Ng was brutally beaten by plain-clothed Beijing police while he was covering minor crowd disturbances following China’s loss to Japan in the finals of the Asian Cup on August 7. He was clubbed over the head, pushed to the ground and kicked repeatedly by three or four of Beijing’s finest. When other police refused to call an ambulance for him and told him to just go away, he took a trishaw to the nearest hospital, and received eight stitches in the head. AFP photographer Fred Brown, who was with Han, was also shoved around by plainclothes police but was not injured. And European Press Agency photographer Michael Reynolds was roughed up near the north gate of the worker’s stadium where, he says, three or four plainclothes police shoved him, shouted obscenities inches from his face and tried – unsuccessfully – to take his cameras. The attack on Han Guan was the most serious and violent incident by police against a journalist since 2001, when AFP photographer Stephen Shaver was beaten up while photographing outside the Forbidden City during a concert by the “three tenors.”
FCCC president Mary Kay Magistad wrote a letter to MOFA spokesman Kong Quan expressing our concern over the incident and asking Kong to pass our concerns to the PSB. (AP and AFP wrote separate letters of protest.) Although the spokesman’s office has, in the past, refused to accept letters from the FCCC because of its non-legal status, they responded promptly this time. A deputy of Kong Quan’s called Mary Kay the day the letter was delivered, and said Kong was concerned, “attached great importance” to the letter and had asked the PSB to investigate the incident. Three weeks later, we have yet to hear anything further from MOFA.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists was informed of the incident and sent out a bulletin about it. Human rights groups have subsequently mentioned it in their press releases on China’s hosting of the 2008 Olympic Games.
Mary Kay Magistad sent another letter to Liu Qi, president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG). The BOCOG Media and Communications Department responded, saying it had “reported to Liu Qi what you told us in your letter. And he attached great importance to the issue and has asked relevant Beijing municipal authorities to conduct a full investigation into the incident.”
The letter went on to say: “We are very grateful that you wrote to us and told us what actually happened. Here goes our sincere concern to the injured Mr. Han Guan Ng. We have been keeping a friendly cooperative relationship with Beijing-based overseas media. We make every effort to provide convenience for the reporters and protect their legal rights. We hope that we can keep in close touch in our future work.”
MOFA spokesman Kong Quan assured us that the foreign ministry “attached great imporance” to a letter by FCCC President Mary Kay Magistad expressing concern about the beating of Ng.
Kong’s assurances appeared hollow on September 7 when Xinhua ran a story quoting Kong as saying Ng’s injuries were a result of being “pushed by the crowd of fans.” Kong later said Xinhua had misquoted him.
But the Beijing police take the obfuscation award, by telling AP Bureau Chief Joe McDonald September 21 that they simply “couldn’t find” the individual who beat Ng – this, despite the fact that Ng gave a physical description and saw his attacker’s surname, “Liu,” plainly displayed on his Asian Cup security pass.
Beijing’s finest went one further by indicating that the investigation – rather than the perp – remained on ice unless new evidence materializes. It’s unclear at this point whether the cops’ suggestion that AP correspondents turn amateur gumshoes to find Ng’s assailant jibes with the “no interview without waiban approval” rule…
But in one of those amazing Beijing coincidences, Ng did indeed bump into his assailant outside the Canadian Embassy on September 29, the day the 44 North Korean asylum-seekers went over the wall. Ng took a picture of his attacker chatting with one of the very same policemen who attended the same September 21 meeting at which authorities told AP that Ng’s assailant couldn’t be identified or located. AP has sent the photos to the police.
The quest for justice continues. After Ng took photos of his assailant outside the Canadian embassy on September 29, AP Bureau Chief Joe McDonald wrote the following masterpiece of caustic wit to Mr. Liu Xiaoyi at the Beijing Public Security Bureau: “The Associated Press has obtained additional evidence in the assault by members of the Chinese security forces on AP photographer Ng Han Guan.
“Mr. Ng saw his principal attacker – the man who struck him in the head with a club – outside the Canadian Embassy on September 29. Photos of him are enclosed. Please note that in one of the photos he appears to be talking to you. You might know him…
“We hope that you will be able to pursue this new information and catch Mr. Ng’s attackers. Many thanks again for your conscientious attention to this case.”
McDonald followed up recently with a phone call to the PSB’s Mr. Liu. He confirmed he’d received the photos, but refused to say whether he knew the other Mr. Liu, with whom he’d apparently been chatting in one of the photos. The PSB’s Mr. Liu said the investigation remained stalled, and he was vague about whether that would change. McDonald said he’ll be sending another letter to the Foreign Ministry to ask for help in prodding the PSB into action. “This official indifference will just breed more of this behavior,” he said. He’d welcome anything other correspondents could do to let the Foreign Ministry and PSB know that ignoring this case isn’t going to make it go away.
Joe MacDonald of AP reports that there has been no further progress on the case of Han Guan Ng.
Despite persistent efforts by AP bureau chief Joe McDonald, including producing photos of the plainclothes security officer who beat AP photographer Han Guan Ng, the PSB has done nothing we know of to discipline that officer.