Posted by: Dexter Roberts on August 5, 2008
“Drastic action that attracts a crowd or affects public order”—that’s now the only time that Beijing police are supposed to intervene and stop public speeches. The internal document viewed by Reuters even says that unless the venue is in a sensitive spot like Tiananmen Square, public speeches on Falun Gong, Xinjiang, Tibet, and Taiwan should be allowed to continue.
It also goes on to say that police should not stop photographers from taking pictures or filming news in the capital. They also should not seize camera memory cards (a common practice in China), and that reporters should not be called into police stations for questioning in “ordinary cases.”
That’s good news. Taking excessive measures to control news coverage usually backfires anyway. It is hardly surprising when reporters then decide to highlight what they perceive as press persecution. And with 30,000 reporters descending on Beijing for the Olympics, that’s something apparently Beijing authorities are now realizing.
Unfortunately, the document’s spirit doesn’t seem to have extended to far Western China’s Kashgar, site of the deadly attack on 16 policemen yesterday. Two Japanese journalists were beaten up by paramilitary police while trying to report there. Here’s what the Foreign Correspondents Club of China had to say:
“The paramilitaries forcibly removed them from a public street, beat them and damaged equipment,” while one reporter “was surrounded by paramilitaries, lifted off the floor by his arms and legs, kicked and then when he was put down again, one of the police put a boot on his face and pinned it to the floor. His flash was broken and he still feels pains in his elbow and ribs on his right side.”
Although senior police officers have apologized, they still need to go further continued the FCCC statement: “This is utterly unacceptable any time. It’s particularly reprehensible just days before the Olympics at a time when China has promised complete media freedom.”