Olympics: Police get rough in Kashgar

Police in Kashgar apparently didn’t get the message about new tactics for relating to the media. Japan’s Kyodo News Agency reported that Masami Kawakita, a photographer from the Chunichi Shimbun newspaper’s Tokyo headquarters, and Shinji Katsuta, a reporter for Nippon Television Network’s China general bureau, were slightly injured when police in Kashgar dragged them from a site near where 16 police officers were killed on Monday in a terrorist attack. The men were injured, Kyodo said after “police forcibly disrupted the Japanese journalists’ reporting activities near the base [the site of Monday morning’s attack], took them to a room in a nearby hotel and beat them before releasing them two hours later, according to people with knowledge of the situation.”

China‘s Foreign Ministry did offer its apologies to the men. The official Xinhua News Agency said that the journalists “were taken away for investigation after the clash.” Xinhua also reported that the Kashgar border police and the local foreign affairs department apologized to the journalists, and that police will pay for repairs to their equipment.

The Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC) immediately condemned the attacks and filled in some of the details of what happened:

“Kawakita said he 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 flesh was broken and he still feel pains in his elbow and ribs on his right side.”

The FCCC’s displeasure was evident in the 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,” said FCCC President Jonathan Watts. “The FCCC calls on the government to name those responsible and punish them in order to reassure resident correspondents and thousands of visiting journalists that this will not happen again in China.”

We reported yesterday that Reuters, apparently the first foreign news agency to report from the scene in Kashgar on Monday, had pictures of police detaining a journalist. Reuters Beijing Bureau Chief Ben Lim said today that the Reuters correspondent on the scene, Emma Graham-Harrison, had been chased from near the site of the attack by baton-wielding police, but had not been injured.

AP Bureau Chief Charles Hutzler said the agency’s correspondents have not run into trouble with the authorities in Kashgar “yet.” Hutzler said the latest problem for him was learning that the Beijing municipal government is now asking news agencies to call them before sending teams to Tiananmen Square. But, Hutzler said, reports that the government had asked for 24-hour notice weren’t accurate.

(Reporting from Hong Kong)