The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China notes the steps taken by the authorities in Henan to make amends for the beating of a Belgian TV journalist.
Tom van de Weghe of VRT received a letter of apology from the perpetrators and partial compensation for being stopped and assaulted by thugs working with local officials while he was reporting Hiv-Aids patients in Henan. “Unfortunate things happened that day. We feel guilty when we recall it,” noted the letter, signed by five locals who were involved in the incident. “We want to apologize, forgive us.”
Van de Weghe did not get back all his belongings. One tape is still missing, along with a camera and money that was taken from his wallet. But he and his company said they considered the matter closed.
NOTE: VRT Statement copied below.
China offers apologies to Belgian public broadcaster VRT
BRUSSELS/BEIJING, 08/01/2009 The local authorities of the Central Chinese province of Henan have send a letter to VRT to offer their apologies for the incident with China correspondent Tom Van de Weghe. They also offer a compensation fee that partially covers the suffered damage.
On November 27 2008 Belgian correspondent Tom Van de Weghe was trying to make a report on AIDS in China, when he was attacked and threatened by local authorities in Henan. The tapes of the interviews were confiscated, along with cash money, mobile phone and recording equipment. The 3 members of the TV crew also received some severe blows.
“Unfortunate things happened that day. We feel guilty when we recall it.” it sounds in a handwritten letter, signed by 5 local officials who were involved in the incident. “We want to apologize, forgive us.”
The signatories of the letter also regret the damage and send along a cheque of about 150 euro. “Please accept this, we are poor.” they claim. The letter ends with the best wishes for the Chinese New Year.
“This is more than expected.” says VRT-correspondent Tom Van de Weghe. During a previous meeting with local Henan authorities in December, Van de Weghe got back some tapes of the footage, with the exception of the tape with footage of the attack.
“We’ll never get back that missing tape, I’m afraid, but I consider this letter and small compensation as a symbolic gesture.” says Van de Weghe. ” We know this is done under pressure by higher authorities. Those responsible on the local level will hopefully never act like this again.”
VRT claimed after the incident “apologies to Tom Van de Weghe, his team and the VRT news service, compensation of the damaged and stolen goods and a guarantee that the VRT correspondent can properly continue his work in China.”
“We already have been given this guarantee by Chinese Foreign Affairs. Now that all our conditions are almost fullfilled, we hope we can close this incident.” says VRT editor-in-Chief Pieter Knapen.