Chinese Police Harass Journalist Who Covered Tangshan Protest


2004-07-14
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HONG KONG — ; A Chinese journalist who wrote articles on disputes between rural residents and corrupt local officials across China is being harassed by police from the southeastern province of Fujian. Police have also put pressure on another prominent peasant activist to frame him, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.

Zhao Yan, a journalist with the Beijing-based magazine China Reform , has come under mounting pressure following his coverage of peasant allegations of official abuse in the northern city of Tangshan and in Fujian. His father died after a raid on his family home by police, and he lost his job at the magazine following official pressure on his bosses.

"At the beginning of April when I had left Fuzhou, they followed me to Beijing to arrest me. My boss told them I'd already resigned and that I wasn't in Beijing, because I often went to Fujian for research," Zhao told RFA in an interview Tuesday.

"They found out the address of my parental home...My father's health isn't that good. One day in April a few uniformed police and plainclothes police went to his home. My father didn't know the sort of work I did, and so he was very frightened when he heard the police were looking for me," Zhao said.

The New York-based Human Rights in China (HRIC) group said police from the Fujian provincial and municipal Public Security Bureaus stormed into the home of Zhao Yan's father in the northeastern city of Harbin. In a statement July 13, HRIC said, "Zhao has already lost his job and his father as a result of official harassment, and now lives in fear of imminent arrest."

Zhao's father, who was recovering from a serious illness, fell out of his bed in fright, causing deterioration to his condition, and he died a few days later. Zhao, however, told RFA he couldn't be entirely sure that the police were from Fuzhou.

Zhao, who reported earlier this year on the efforts of some 20,000 farmers displaced in the 1990s to make way for the Taolinkou reservoir near the city of Qinhuangdao in Hebei Province to get their grievances heard, said he believed his father's death was a direct result of the police raid.

"I really feel that that is going one step too far," a grief-stricken Zhao told RFA.

An officer on duty at the Fujian provincial Public Security Bureau didn't deny Zhao's report. "I don't know about this," he told RFA repeatedly.

Last week, Tangshan police detained peasant activist Zhang Youren ahead of a visit to the area by Premier Wen Jiabao.

Zhang has led protests over the Taolinkou reservoir, some 100 kms (60 miles) east of Beijing, and collected around 12,000 signatures in a petition to China's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC) in March. He was held under house arrest since being brought back from Beijing by local police.

The activists say Tangshan municipal party secretary Zhang He misappropriated up to 60 million yuan (7.2 million dollars) in funds set aside to compensate displaced residents

Earlier in the year, nine members of the Party Secretariat of Qingkou Village, Minhou County, Fuzhou City, collected 270,000 yuan , which they used for a mission to Beijing to find a way to have Zhao Yan fired, the group said.

Zhao's articles were often considered too inflammatory for publication, and were reserved for internal circulation among government officials only.

Zhao's name no longer appeared in the magazine's March issue, and he formally resigned in April. HRIC said it had evidence that the Fujian police were intent on framing Zhao and another prominent advocate of the disadvantaged.

On July 8, around 11:00 a.m., a well-known peasant advocate, Wu Zhongkai, telephoned Beijing-based sociologist Zhang Yaojie from a village near Fuzhou and said that Fuzhou Public Security Police had ordered him to expose the activities of Zhao Yan and legal scholar Li Boguang [the director of Beijing's Qimin Research Institute], HRIC said.

"Police described the two men as criminals and demanded that Wu Zhongkai have no more to do with them. Wu Zhongkai said he finally refused further cooperation with the police, and with the assistance of fellow-villagers fled to a hillside cemetery, where he remains a fugitive," it said.

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