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  • Incident Reports | 14 September, 2015 (00:36)

    August 2015 Tianjin European reporter

    August 2015
    European reporter

    We were doing a story about the family of missing firefighters who work on contract with Tianjin Port authorities.

    We were in contact with family members of
the non-PSB fire brigade members who are missing in the Tianjin blast. We were going to pick them up when we got an SMS from an unknown number telling us time and venue for the daily press conference. Then, family members phones got scrambled and our phones as well. By the time we could reach them they told us they were warned not to go out and talk to journalists. They went out anyway.

    My news assistant picked them up by car while I scouted the location (a coffee shop). Even before the family members and news assistant arrived, 2 men with badges saying ‘Gongzuorenyuan’ took the seats right behind us. We changed seats so they could not overhear. While we interviewed the family, in total around six men swarmed around us and listened in. They made themselves very visible. The family got nervous and wanted to go back to the hotel. Me and my news assistant got in our car to bring them back. As we prepared to leave three men knocked on the window and started to ask questions in a rude way, for example, asking if we are related to firefighters, if we are related to firefighters family. Since they did not identify themselves (only said they were ‘volunteers’).

    We closed the window and left. We were followed by a minivan on our way to the hotel. To confirm it was really following us, we drove into a dead end street. There the van waited for us. The van did not seek out confrontation and neither did we. It kept on following us until we dropped the family off at the hotel. We checked with the family by phone and they said they did not have any problems going back to their room but asked us to stop contacting them, because they were afraid their contact with journalists would be used against them while they needed the government to help them find their missing firefighter son.