Journalists threatened during farmland issue investigation, police refuse to help
From Xinhua News:
Local farmers hold banners to require government to give back their farmland
Three Xinhua News Agency journalists were threatened during an investigation of farmland transfer issue in a place in Hebei Province just 40 km away from Beijing three days ago. To their surprise, the local police turned down their request when asked for protection.
The journalists came to Xianghe County in Hebei province to investigate the farmland transfer issue which was reported by the local villagers. Upon their arrival, some local villagers quietly led them to the farmlands where water conservancy facilities were destroyed.
About ten minutes later, a man in white headed to the journalists and questioned them. Several villagers were afraid of him and whispered to journalists that the man was a government cadre, who’s in charge of the area and often questioned strangers.
The journalists then came to a local housing project site. But not until they walked in a few meters, three men quickly came out of nowhere and started to question them. The men were also local government officials, according to the villagers.
After that, the journalists were followed by them. One of the cars following belongs to the man in white. Failed to get away from these cars, journalists decided to stop.
“We are just doing some interviews and we will call you if we need.” said journalists to the followers. But the followers acclaimed to be the officials in the propaganda department and had to follow them so that they could report to their supervisor.
That night, journalists went to another village called Xiao Liuwang for interview. According to the villagers, more than 360 acres of farm fields were transferred by government in 2009. The fields then turned into commercial estates instead of public roads which were promised to be built by the government.
Hearing the Xinhua News journalists were here, farmers from nearby villages rushed to the village and told them their sufferings. They also brought all kinds of certificates issued by government to show that they were telling the truth.
About 21:00, a villager told journalists that they were not able to leave the village because several unidentified persons had already surrounded all the ways out. There were histories that some people were once beaten by those unidentified persons with tattoos. Someone ended up with bone fracture.
21:35, villagers began to worry about their safety. The journalists then called the local police for help. They told the police that they were Xinhua News journalists here for an interview and their lives may be in great danger.
However, instead of asking them the details, the policeman in the phone was blaming them for interviewing at night and not telling them before hand. The journalists were warned to ask for permission to interview.
The journalists asked again for protection. This time the policeman took down their cell phone numbers and never called back after that.
23:10, still no news from the police. So the villagers volunteered to escort them to leave the place. One farmer said: “Don’t be afraid, as long as I am here, you can safely leave here for sure.”
More than 40 villagers quickly assembled tens of motor vehicles to help them. Finally, the journalists came back to their hotel under the protection of the local farmers about 20 km from the village.