Taipei, May 16, 2018–The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on Chinese authorities to stop harassing and detaining journalists and to explain why they detained and injured a cameraperson reporting on a human rights lawyer’s court hearing.
Security forces in Beijing today around 9:30 a.m. detained Chui Chun-ming, a cameraperson for the Hong Kong broadcaster Now TV, as he prepared to film a Now TV Beijing correspondent’s interview with lawyer Xie Yanyi, according to Chui’s employer and the Hong Kong Apple Daily. Security forces also detained Xie, according to the same reports.
“China needs to stop harassing journalists who are just doing their jobs and also stop harassing interview subjects who have every right to talk to journalists,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C. “Authorities should take disciplinary action against the officers who roughed up and detained Chiu Chun-ming without justification.”
The officer who answered CPJ’s call to the Dongcheng Branch of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau and did not give his name said he did not know about the case and could not provide any details.
Chui told Now TV that he and his colleague Li Tongyin were preparing to interview Xie when police asked the two journalists for their press credentials and that they complied. The cameraperson said police then asked Chui to see his credentials a second time and officers then refused to return the credentials.
“When I tried to reason with police, our interviewee [Xie] quickly grabbed my permit from behind the officer and gave it back to me,” Chui told Now TV.
At least five police officers then shoved Chui to the ground where they handcuffed him and then dragged him to a vehicle, according to a video Now TV released on its website after Chui’s arrest and an article from the same broadcaster.
During his detention, Chui’s handcuffs were removed and he made a short video, which Now TV later posted on its website, showing his injuries, including a bleeding forehead and bruises on his hands and knees.
Security forces held Chui for two hours, and the journalist was made to sign a letter of repentance saying he regretted his actions before he was released and his press permit was returned, according to news reports and Now TV news department’s vice director, Kan Hok-hei.
According to the same reports, the journalist was taken to a hospital after his release.
The broadcaster released a statement during Chui’s detention calling for his immediate release and demanding an explanation from police. “We are extremely angry about how our camera crew was treated by authorities,” the statement said.
Xie’s wife Yuan Shanshan told the South China Morning Post that security forces handcuffed Xie after he grabbed Chui’s press credentials, beat him, and dragged him into another police car after he tried to prevent the officers from taking the reporter.
Xie told CPJ approximately one hour after his release that that he was in police custody until 6:30 p.m. and suffered minor neck injuries.
According to Now TV and the Apple Daily, the interview with Xie was supposed to take place before the lawyer was set to appear at a hearing at the Beijing Lawyers Association. According to a May 4 notice from the association, the hearing was in relation to Xie’s alleged violation of the attorneys’ code of conduct that the association said he committed while representing a practitioner of Falun Gong, a religious movement that is persecuted by the Chinese government.
Xie is among many lawyers persecuted in the “709 crackdown,” that began on July 9, 2015 and during which Chinese authorities arrested approximately 300 lawyers nationwide.
CPJ research shows that the crackdown on human rights lawyers has deprived some jailed journalists of legal representation.