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  • Incident Reports | 30 July, 2013 (22:58)

    Detention of TV crew in Urumqi

    Stefan Blommaert, correspondent for VRT (Belgian TV and radio) was detained along with his cameraman and producer for three hours in Urumqi on Tuesday July 30th by policemen who told him he needed special permission to film in Xinjiang.

    That is not the case, according to the State Council regulations governing the work of foreign correspondents, made permanent in 2008.

    The VRT team was filming for a story on Han-Uyghur relations in the wake of recent violence. They had been shooting at the central bazaar, a meat market and on the streets without incident, before going to the bus station.

    After 30 minutes of filming there, they were interrupted by a group of plainclothes policemen who took them in police cars to a police station. The Chinese cameraman was interrogated first by a policeman who implied that he was an anti-patriotic spy.

    Blommaert and his producer were then questioned, and told that they needed special permission to film in Xinjiang and a person to “assist” in interview with local residents. A policeman told them he would “keep” them at the station until they showed him the footage they had shot, so Blommaert reluctantly handed over one memory card.

    Having watched the footage, the policeman told the Chinese producer, who holds Belgian nationality, that the questions he had asked citizens were provocative, illegal and anti-patriotic and that if he had been a Chinese national he would have been arrested for breaking Chinese law. The policeman agreed to return the memory card only after he had copied it, and insisted that Blommaert delete the images on the card.

    Blommaert says that he was treated correctly, but that before the three were released the cameraman and the producer were repeatedly threatened by policemen making reference to their families.