The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China is appalled to learn of yesterday’s brutal assault on a German TV crew by thugs apparently linked to local authorities in Hebei province.
The crew, belonging to ARD television, narrowly avoided serious injury when two men attacked their vehicle with baseball bats, shattering the windscreen, after a high speed chase down a major highway near the city of Sanhe, 50 km east of Beijing.
ARD correspondent Christine Adelhardt, accompanied by two German colleagues and two Chinese staff, had been filming in the village of Da Yan Ge Zhuang for a report on urbanization, one of the incoming Chinese government’s major challenges and a process that has often provoked disputes over land ownership.
“We were filming the village square, where you could see old style farmers’ houses next to a newly-built mansion behind a wall and high-rise buildings in the background,” said Ms. Adelhardt, when a car drew up nearby them. The car’s driver began filming the TV crew.
When the crew left, two cars, later joined by at least two others, gave chase, trying to force the Germans’ minivan off the road and to deliberately cause a collision. They forced the ARD driver to stop at one point, whereupon five or six men surrounded the car, attempted to get in, and hammered on the windows with their fists.
The crew got away, but were pursued, forced off the road and onto the sidewalk, rammed, and made to stop. Two men from the pursuing vehicles attacked the minivan with baseball bats, shattering its windscreen, before the ARD driver was able to get away again by bulldozing his way past a car parked in front of the ARD van.
The crew then came across two motorcycle policemen, whom they asked for help. Their pursuers caught up with them, and again began smashing and punching holes in the car’s windscreen, despite the policemens’ attempts to control them.
A local resident who witnessed the scene later told Ms. Adelhardt that one of the cars involved in the pursuit belonged to the Da Yan Ge Zhuang village Communist party secretary.
Eventually police reinforcements arrived, and escorted the ARD crew to a local police station, where Ms. Adelhardt and her colleagues were questioned. Ms. Adelhardt saw a number of the men who had attacked her car at the police station, but was not sure whether they were detained.
When she asked to file a charge of attempted homicide, she was assured by a local official that such charges had already been laid against the men. But a policeman told her that the investigation had found that villagers had been “offended” by the TV crew’s presence and that they should have asked permission to film.
Chinese government regulations governing foreign journalists in China state expressly that such prior permission is not required to film in public spaces.
The FCCC calls on the authorities to investigate this incident and to punish those responsible for such a gross violation of the ARD crew’s professional journalistic rights.