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  • Incident Reports | 7 April, 2014 (09:28)

    Harassment of source

    Last summer Marieke de Vries, correspondent for Dutch radio and television, visited Yingkou in the northern province of Liaoning. She was interested in the city because it has been heavily built but has practically no residents; it is a “ghost town”.

    Marieke and her crew were just finishing a radio interview with a local woman who has refused to leave her old home to make way for developers when officials from the local propaganda bureau arrived. That scared the woman enough that she would not conduct a TV interview.

    As the journalists left the house they came across an old man, Mr. Pi, who said he had been evicted from his home but that he was happy with the new apartment he had been given. He agreed to be interviewed so the journalists drove him to his plot of land; the propaganda bureau officials followed in their car and watched while the interview proceeded.

    As Marieke wrapped up her interview, a group of 5-8 men in plain clothes, thuggish in appearance, suddenly approached and grabbed Mr. Pi. They physically dragged him down the road to their car, bundled him into it and drove off. They gave no explanation of what they were doing. The propaganda bureau officials, who had watched the incident from their car but had not intervened, said only that the men had been “local people concerned for their elders; we are not used to TV crews around here”.

    Marieke and her team were then followed throughout the day by a convoy of up to seven cars full of local officials, which meant further interviews with local people were impossible.

    Marieke is unsure what happened to Mr. Pi. She did not want to get him or the woman she had initially interviewed into more trouble so did not call them for a few days. When she talked to the woman she said that Mr. Pi had been returned to his home the evening of the incident, but Marieke has been unable to confirm this. The man who acted as the TV crew’s driver was unable to get in touch with Mr. Pi.