New York, May 3, 2012--Chinese security officials' ongoing obstruction of foreign and domestic journalists covering dissident Chen Guangcheng is a worrying sign for supporters trying to secure his safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Authorities in Chen's native Shandong province have kept the blind, self-taught lawyer isolated from the media since September 2010.
The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China circulated an email to members Thursday, warning them that "reporters have had their press cards confiscated (hopefully just temporarily) and have been escorted from the premises at Chaoyang Hospital." Chen was being treated at the hospital on Wednesday for injuries he sustained during his dramatic flight from extrajudicial house arrest to the U.S. embassy last week, according to international news reports. The story is censored in China.
In two separate incidents, men in plainclothes harassed and threatened media crews from two outlets who were attempting to visit Chen's home on Tuesday and Wednesday, the news outlets reported. Stephen Jiang, an editor for CNN in Beijing, described his encounter on the CNN website, saying that "a half-dozen burly men stood guard," which led to scuffling and a cameraman's equipment being seized. The reporting trip was intended to "find Chen's family--but couldn't get close," Jiang reported.
Wu Zimin, a journalist for the Hong Kong-based i-cable TV, documented her own encounter with a group of men who surrounded her car and pounded on the window. The men did not respond to Wu's request that they show ID or explain why they would not let her pay a visit in the town. "We're just here visiting too," one man told her.
Prominent activist Zeng Jinyan, who has been reporting her conversations with Chen via her personal Twitter account, said on Thursday that she had been confined to her home, apparently in reprisal for publicizing his situation online. In a Twitter post on Thursday, she asked the media not to contact her.
"Journalists reporting on Chen Guangcheng are being subjected to harassment, obstruction, and intimidation," said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator. "Silencing Chen or supporters such as Zeng Jinyan won't shut off the public's interest in the case, but it will reinforce the perception that authorities are fixated on information control."
Although a few foreign journalists have been able to speak to Chen Guangcheng in person, two journalists covering the story today had their credentials confiscated in Beijing, according to Claudia Trevisan, correspondent with the Brazilian newspaper O Estado de S.Paulo and Foreign Correspondents Club board member. Trevisan told CPJ the journalists had asked not to be identified.