Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

China Detains Men Over Beating of Journalist [New York Times]

In many parts of China, journalists who try to avoid self-censorship are seen as threats by corrupt officials and businesspeople.

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China Detains Men Over Beating of Journalist
Source – New York Times, published December 21, 2010

BEIJING — The police detained six men as suspects in the beating of a Chinese journalist who now lies brain-dead in a hospital in the far west of the country, an employee of his newspaper said Tuesday. The assault was the worst on a journalist in China in recent memory.

The injured man, Sun Hongjie, was based in the remote town of Kuitin for the Beijiang Morning Post, known in English as the Northern Xinjiang Morning Post. He was attacked late Friday night and has been in a coma since, according to the employee and reports on Tuesday in Beijing News and Xinhua, the state news agency.

The report in Beijing News said the six suspects were detained 40 hours after the beating. Citing police officials, the report said a man named Mr. Liu was among the attackers and hit Mr. Sun twice in the head with clods of earth. The report also said the attackers destroyed Mr. Sun’s cellphone.

Mr. Sun has a reputation in the western region of Xinjiang as a crusading journalist who sought to expose corruption and wrongdoings. His newspaper, based in the regional capital of Urumqi, began publishing in its current incarnation in January and is seen as a relatively independent voice that operates without any significant government revenue.

The newspaper employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity about the case, declined to say what Mr. Sun had been researching and did not want to discuss whether his work was linked to the attack. Violence against journalists is rare in China, but several recent cases have drawn attention to the issue. Two science reporters, Fang Shimin and Fang Xuanchang, were beaten in unrelated incidents in Beijing by club-wielding men this year. Fang Shimin, who writes under the name of Fang Zhouzi, runs a Web site, New Threads, whose mission is to expose academic fraud, a rampant problem in China. Both men said they believed their attackers were seeking revenge for stories the journalists had written.

In many parts of China, journalists who try to avoid self-censorship are seen as threats by corrupt officials and businesspeople.

The circumstances of the assault against Mr. Sun remain murky. The Xinhua article, citing local police officials, said the attack arose from a personal dispute. It said Mr. Sun met a friend named Mr. Bu for a drink at 11 p.m. on Friday; Mr. Bu then called five other men to come and attack Mr. Sun because Mr. Sun had previously insulted him.

The group attacked Mr. Sun while he was walking outside with Mr. Bu, and they dragged Mr. Sun to a construction site and hit him in the head, the article said. Mr. Sun later called the police and was brought to a hospital by a co-worker, but was pronounced brain-dead by doctors on Saturday morning, Xinhua reported.

Journalists in Xinjiang and elsewhere have been writing blog posts about Mr. Sun, and at least one writer has speculated that the attack might have been linked to a story he was researching on the forced demolition of a milk factory. One journalist based in Xinjiang, Yuan Yin, asked in a blog post how the police could have come to a conclusion about the assault so quickly after detaining the suspects. The blog post had been deleted from the Internet by Tuesday afternoon.

Li Bibo and Benjamin Haas contributed research.


Filed under: Communications, Corruption, Domestic Growth, Human Rights, Media, New York Times, People, Population, Social

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