FCCC Statement on Harassment of Reporters Covering Henan Floods

Jul 27, 2021

July 27, 2021

The Foreign Correspondents Club of China is very concerned to witness the recent online and offline harassment of journalists covering devastating floods in the Chinese province of Henan this month. 

In one particularly alarming incident, Henan’s Communist Youth League asked its 1.6 million followers on Chinese social media site Weibo to report the whereabouts of BBC Shanghai reporter Robin Brant, after he became the target of viral online harassment. 

Rhetoric from organizations affiliated with China’s ruling Communist Party directly endangers the physical safety of foreign journalists in China and hinders free reporting.  

A few days later, Zhengzhou residents surrounded a German TV reporter on assignment for Deutsche Welle and a reporter for the Los Angeles Times near a flooded underground market after mistaking the German reporter for BBC’s Brant. The crowd grabbed the reporter’s camera and clothes and briefly prevented both outlets from leaving the site. Since then, the China-based staff for BBC, LA Times and others have received death threats and intimidating messages and calls.

Other outlets also experienced harassment while covering Henan’s flooding and rescue efforts. Al Jazeera’s crew were followed and filmed while reporting outside a waterlogged Zhengzhou metro station while the Associated Press were stopped and reported to the police while filming in a public area. French outlet AFP were forced to delete footage by hostile residents and surrounded by several dozen men while reporting on a submerged traffic tunnel.

The FCCC is disappointed and dismayed at the growing hostility against foreign media in China, a sentiment underpinned by rising Chinese nationalism sometimes directly encouraged by Chinese officials and official entities. The censorship of foreign media in China has contributed to a one-sided view of our work in China. Together, this has created a deteriorating working environment for the foreign press and further prevents journalists from providing the comprehensive coverage of China we aim for.

The FCCC is especially alarmed at the threats levied against our Chinese colleagues. Online, critics have falsely accused them of espionage and treason and sent them threatening messages — simply because of their valuable work for foreign media organizations.

The FCCC calls on the Chinese government to uphold its promise to allow foreign journalists unfettered access to report in China’s regions and to maintain its responsibility to protect people’s safety.