LOCATION: Tiananmen Square
TYPE OF INCIDENT: Barred from public space
TOPIC: Tiananmen anniversary
NATIONALITY/ORGANIZATION: Italian TV
The authorities asked us to go with them to “an office close to the square” to apply to film in Tiananmen. I explained that I saw no reason since we are accredited journalists. He replied that “new rules” were introduced in the beginning of 2009. I replied that this was impossible since I had shot in Tiananmen several times previously this year.
DESCRIPTION: I got to Tiananmen square with a colleague another TV station. We were supposed to shoot stand-ups for each other for our report about the 20th anniversary of the massacre. When we first entered the square with our equipment nobody stopping us. As soon we came out from the tunnel, a plainclothes policeman (he showed us his ID) in his 20s rushed to us to check our press cards and invited us to return to the tunnel again to check our papers. We followed him. My colleague invented a story and explained in Chinese that he was reporting about green cars in China and I was with him to shoot a piece for the report. He let us go after 20 minutes.
Once I set the tripod in the square though, the guy came back with another person. The authorities asked us to go with them to “an office close to the square” to apply to film in Tiananmen. I explained that I saw no reason since we are accredited journalists. He replied that “new rules” were introduced in the beginning of 2009. I replied that this was impossible since I had shot in Tiananmen several times previously this year. So he elaborated and set the introduction of the rules at “last month”, until he cut it short and said very politely that anyway these rules (called “N. 537″) are in place for Tiananmen related work, “as it was during the Olympics” he added quoting another rules number (400 something). When asked about the possible end of these new rules, he said “next week”. We chose not to make the situation turn difficult, so my colleague followed the policeman to the office while I stayed in the square since I did not want to put away my camera.
The other guy (he did not show any ID) stuck with me and kept asking many questions and pretended to be very interested in my job. He asked details about the camera, he talked about football, and dropped in questions like “Who do you work for? Which company does your friend work for? Are you reporting about cars?” Half an hour later the others came back and explained the office was closed and so we could either wait for the office to open later in the day or come back another day and comply with the procedure to work in Tiananmen. I refused since I would have to change my schedule for the piece and I could not, I explained. So we were invited to leave the square. It was 10:30.
I took the tunnel and reached the southeast corner of the square (on my left) with Changanjie (on my right). The same policeman reached me 10 minutes later and granted me a few minutes to shoot my stand up. Basically I started doing my job, with the square in the background. When my time was up, the guy urged me again to leave, because “it was not very convenient for us to be there.” I asked him for some extra time and it turned out fine actually. Despite a uniformed policeman asking us briefly what we were doing there, my colleague and I we were able to work for one hour, and complete five stand-ups.