Voice of America Mandarin Service correspondent Yibing Feng and his Chinese assistant, Allen Ai, were detained for about six hours on August 13, 2018, by security personnel after they tried to conduct an interview in Jinan, Shandong Province.
Feng had been attempting to interview retired professor Sun Wenguang through an opening in the door of his apartment, while security personnel in the hallway repeatedly interrupted in an attempt to halt the interview, according to a video of the incident posted on VOA’s Twitter account. A second video posted to VOA’s Twitter account–which is mostly dark–captures audio as the two VOA employees were forced into a car, with Feng repeatedly saying: “Don’t pull me,” and “Don’t grab me.” VOA, which is funded by the U.S. government, said in an August 13 statement that the men were released after security officials scanned their electronic devices and rendered them inoperable.
Feng is a U.S. citizen and an accredited foreign correspondent in China, while Ai is a Chinese citizen and contractor of VOA.
“It is outrageous that two journalists have been detained for nothing more than doing their jobs,” VOA Director Amanda Bennett–who is also a member of CPJ’s board of directors–said in an August 13, 2018, statement. “It’s the job of journalist to find out what’s going on, to talk to people in the news, and that is all that they were doing.”
CPJ’s call on August 14, 2018, to the Jinan City Public Security Bureau went unanswered. CPJ also called Shandong Province’s Public Security Department to request comment on August 14 but the officer who answered the phone immediately hung up at the mention of CPJ’s name.
Sun, a critic of the Chinese government, was detained on August 2, 2018, after being interrupted during a live interview with VOA, during which he criticized China’s signature policy of investing in infrastructure projects in Africa, according to news reports.
During the August 13 interview, Sun can be heard saying that he was kept away from home for 10 days, staying in four different hotels, and that he was now confined to his home, with security posted there. He remarked that Chinese reporters were allowed to go to the United States to report, but that it was very difficult for American journalists to report from China.
In an August 14, 2018, statement, the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of China condemned the detention. “The FCCC calls on China to adhere to its own rules and regulations in the treatment of journalists,” the statement said. “Detaining an accredited journalist who is lawfully reporting is a grave infringement of their rights under Chinese law.”
Conditions for foreign correspondents working in China have become gradually more difficult over the years, according to the most recent report of the Beijing-based FCCC.