Hong Kong, July 16, 2013--Chinese authorities must conduct an independent and thorough investigation into reports that a plainclothes police officer said to be involved in an auto accident in Kunming City, Yunnan, threatened a television journalist trying to cover the collision, and damaged the news crew's equipment, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
"Journalists in China, as elsewhere, have a right to film a public event such as a traffic accident without fearing for their safety," said Robert Mahoney, CPJ's deputy director in New York. "We call on authorities to conduct an independent and thorough investigation of this episode, in particular the threat of violence against the TV crew, and bring those responsible to justice."
The crew for local news station Kunming Guangbo Dianshi Tai was covering the scene on Friday when a police officer, who was involved in the car crash, got angry and told them to not film the license plate, according to an article by Xinhua official state news agency and other news reports. It is unclear if the official identified himself as a police officer at the scene. The officer damaged the crew's tripod, then pointed a knife at one journalist and said, "I can kick you to death today. My knife is here," the reports said.
News reports did not immediately identify the journalist. CPJ's calls to Kunming TV were not answered.
The city's political office has confirmed that the suspect was a plainclothes police officer, named Tan Liyong, according to a July 15 Xinhua report. The office said it was investigating the case.
Reports did not say whether police had filed charges against Tan in connection with the alleged threats. Kunming's Municipal Public Security Bureau said on July 15 that Tan was suspended from duty, according to a Yunnan News network report published on Kunming Guangbo Dianshi Tai's website.
China Financial News ran an opinion piece on the event, in which the writer complained that police had "outrageous powers" and urged public security departments to make education of law enforcement personnel a "top priority."
- For more data and analysis on China, visit CPJ's March 2013 special report, Challenged in China.