Hong Kong is known to produce some of the most gung-ho reporters and cameramen around. When these guys cross over to the mainland and come face-to-face with Chinese police, interesting things happen.
Yesterday, over 30,000 people queued up in the sweltering heat just outside the Bird’s Nest to get their hands on the last 250,000 Olympic tickets available. After a series of queue-jumping incidents, scuffles broke out at around 2pm. The Standard (HK) reports [h/t to China Digital Times]:
A reporter and cameraman from Now TV filming the incident were ordered by public security officers to stop and erase the recording. They refused and were detained in a police vehicle until a Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office representative arrived to mediate.
Now TV issued a statement accusing the authorities of interfering with press freedom. It said it was the second time in a week its reporters were obstructed.
And then there’s Xinhua’s version of the story which accuses the reporter of:
1. breaking through the crowd-control barricade
2. kicking a police officer in the groin
The Hong Kong reporter, surnamed Wong, did not obey police orders and broke through temporary barricades to take photos, the spokesman said.
“When police officers asked him to leave the temporary controlled zone, Wong didn’t listen. He kicked a police officer surnamed Zhang in the groin and injured him,” he said.
“Wong was then taken away by police for investigation, and the injured officer was sent to a nearby hospital.”
Wong acknowledged that he had not listened to the police persuasions and had kicked the officer during the investigation, the spokesman said.
“Zhang suffered groin injuries and need further observation in hospital,” he said.
Wow. We would have thought causing physical hurt to a law enforcement officer would get you into more trouble than getting put in a police van for a few hours. The PSB were really kind to let them go like this.
In the above video, the police officer stated several times that the reporter would need to be “approved” by the area propaganda bureau, citing a “rule handed down by the State Council”. When the reporter asked why there was the need to receive “approval”, the officer responded curtly, “You are in Beijing. You need to abide by the law here.”
Unfortunately, this has been the experience of numerous journalists as they go about doing their work despite the assurance by top propaganda chief Li Changchun of complete media freedom during the Olympics. In fact, they’ve even established the Beijing International Media Center (housed in a hotel which got into a bit of PR trouble of its own) which is expected to serve more than 5,000 non-accredited reporters during the Games.
If you are one of those 5,000 non-accredited reporters coming to the Games, prep yourself please by reading the hair-tearing experiences of our friend Wong Yee Fong, Beijing correspondent for Channel News Asia, who describes her own encounters with Chinese police while covering the devastating Sichuan earthquake for her station.
So why are journalists going about their daily work getting stopped everywhere? Oh we get it now. The promise was for complete media freedom during the Olympics — not before, not after. On 8 Aug 2008, 8.08pm — the auspicious moment when all good things will happen — the skies will be blue, there will be no rain, and complete media freedom will rain upon the land. Are you ready, folks?