The FCCC and a Japanese journalists group in Beijing have both sent letters of complaint to the Foreign Ministry over the rough handling of reporters by security agents trying to break up a news conference at the Great Wall Sheraton Hotel in January.
About 30 journalists showed up to cover the presser by the South Korean parliamentarians who were to discuss the issue of North Korean refugees. As things were getting under way, men in suits who refused to identify themselves turned the power off in the conference room and tried to kick everyone out, saying the meeting was illegal because the organizers did not have proper papers from the Foreign Ministry’s information department. Asked repeatedly by reporters and the South Korean lawmakers to identify themselves, the men (who, of course, turned out to be security agents – police by one account, perhaps actually MSS) refused, saying they did not need to say.
With the power in the room out, some cameramen tried to film with lights, but the agents stopped them by pulling their cameras down. Same went for photographers snapping flash pictures. Several journalists were forcibly removed from the conference room by the mystery men, who declined to say who they worked for. AP photographer Ng Han Guan was punched on the head while being dragged out of the room by several of the men. (Yes, that’s the same Ng Han Guan who required stitches after being hit on the head by a plainclothes security agent at the Asian Cup soccer final. And, no, that attacker, despite being identified and photographed by Ng since, has not been brought to justice.)
The Foreign Ministry’s Kong Quan later supported the actions of the mystery security agents, saying the Koreans had not come to China for friendly reasons. He did say, however, that it should be standard practice for police and security agents to identify themselves when enforcing the law.
The FCCC sent a letter to Kong Quan, expressing its “displeasure and unease” at the rough handling of reporters. “This type of aggressive, violent behavior doesn’t meet international norms and is damaging to China’s image in the eyes of the world,” the letter said. The FCCC asked that the incident be investigated to determine who was responsible, saying such a process would help prevent future incidents and build confidence. We have yet to hear back.