LOCATION: Henan Province, villages in Xiping district
TYPE OF INCIDENT: Intimidation of sources, unable to proceed with reporting
TOPIC: Unemployed migrant workers in the countryside
NATIONALITY/ORGANIZATION: Marije Vlaskamp, RTL International Television News, Holland
“Mentioning the rules to the local foreign affairs office was not helpful at all. The officials ignored me and put pressure on our local contact by saying the local contact should sign a declaration that he was responsible for our safety. The local contact did not dare to do this.”
DESCRIPTION: Local waiban Foreign Affairs officials welcomed our application and confirmed we could start working on the 28th or 29th of March. We arrived in Zhengzhou on the 28th. The officials changed arrangements every hour. Finally, the waiban said we could report the story in Zhumadian, Xiping district, but they still did not allow us to go there. We went there by ourselves. When the waiban found out, they said they could not find people for our story, but they did not cancel permission. We arrived in Xiping and asked local contacts to arrange suitable people to interview. We checked with the local village head who agreed to us staying in the village and filming for two days. We started flming the next day. we followed a father bringing his son to school. The school teacher did not allow us to film. We went back to the village and filmed the father at home. Local Xiping district government officials arrived with around six officials from the local labour bureau, the agricultural bureau and other officials related to our topic. Some of them were very welcoming and said we could come and film. Then one policeman from the Entry Exit Division arrived and registered my passport and press card. He explained we needed written permission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing. I explained the new rules and that had a positive effect. We were told we were allowed to continue. We continued but the family we wanted to interview was very upset, which influenced the filming. All the officials waited outside the family’s house near the gate. The whole village became upset. We were pushed by our local sources who arranged the contacts to be quick because he was under huge pressure from the government. Other villagers came and also said to be quick because the whole village was worried about what the officals may do. Our source said that if we would not accept a lunch invitation with the waiban he would be in big trouble. The village head said the same. we were invited for lunch in the town of Xiping with six officials, including the waiban head, several village heads and unknown officials. The lunch lasted forever and I got lectured . I was told I had caused them to lose a lot of face because we did not contact local officials, had interfered with the very hardworking village heads who all had to spend time with me in this lunch, had endangered the safety of mysef and my crew by our unauthorised stay in a village, and had not accepted local regulations for recieving foreign guests. We did NOT get any clear refusal or acceptance of our request to continue filming, no matter how many times we asked. At the end of the lunch, our car was followed by the foreign affairs head to the village, where our contact asked us to leave to avoid more trouble for him and his fellow villagers. Then the foreign affairs car forced our driver to follow him. Each time we stopped, they started phoning me or my staff. Finally we were on the highway and left to return to Zhengzhou.