Police in China detain, beat Japanese reporters; Reuters staffer threatened

Hong Kong, August 6, 2008—Reporters covering the aftermath of  Monday’s attack on a border police outpost in Kashgar have been detained, beaten, and harassed, according to international news reports.

Japan’s Kyodo News Agency reported today that police in Kashgar dragged 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, from a spot near the explosions that killed 16 police officers on Monday. (The Associated Press reported Kawakita’s first name as Shinzou.) The blasts have been described as a terrorist attack.

The two journalists suffered slight injuries. Kyodo reported that “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.”

Reuters reported that its correspondent in Kashgar, Emma Graham-Harrison, was driven away from the attack scene by baton-wielding policemen. Reuters said she was not injured and continues to report from Kashgar. 

“It is an irony that the central government allowed foreign reporters to travel to Kashgar unhindered, only to have them physically abused and threatened by police once they started covering the story,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator.

China’s Foreign Ministry offered its apologies to Kawakita and Katsuta. Xinhua reported that the Kashgar border police and the local foreign affairs department also apologized, and that police will pay for the repairs to their equipment.

Journalists who encounter problems reporting in China should call the CPJ hotline at +852 6717 0591 and follow daily coverage of media issues during the Olympics on the CPJ blog.