2 February 2012
The Chinese authorities have set up a massive security cordon in an attempt to prevent journalists from entering Tibetan areas in Western Sichuan Province where major unrest – including killings and self-immolations – has been reported.
The FCCC considers this a clear violation of China’s regulations governing foreign reporters, which allow them to travel freely and to interview anyone prepared to be interviewed.
Correspondents attempting to travel to the region in question have faced major obstacles, including detention by the police and roadblocks at which they have been stopped and turned back by officials who have then forcibly escorted them back to Chengdu. “Bad roads” and “weather” are being used as excuses for denying correspondents entry to the area.
One team reported that their car was suspiciously rammed by another vehicle. Reporters have been followed, questioned for hours, asked to write confessions and had their material confiscated.
Police have been asking to inspect not only the documents that foreign reporters are normally required to carry with them – their passports and press cards – but also the small pink and yellow slips of paper entitled “Registration Form of Temporary Residence”. We advise members to carry these documents in their passports to help avoid being detained.
Journalists are merely trying to do their job and independently confirm the truth of reports from the area. We call on the Chinese government to recognize our purely professional motivation and to abide by its own regulations that allow us to enter the areas in question.
Some Additional Examples:
After travelling for more than three hours, a broadcast crew was stopped on the road by the police and forced to go back to Chengdu. At the capital, they were watched as they interviewed Tibetan monks. Their driver’s family received threatening phone calls. The crew was followed on their way to the airport. When they were about to pass airport security, they were detained by police and then escorted to an airport police station where they were questioned for five hours. Some of their recorded material was confiscated by the police.
Two journalists reached Danba Town in Ganzi. They then tried to reach a monastery 20 kilometres out of town travelling in a taxi. The taxi was stopped at a roadblock. The driver was told he could not continue and that journalists should leave the area. When police said that the reporters were not being detained they decided to try and walk to the monastery. They walked for around 7 to 8 kilometres and were followed by a car as well as two officials on foot. The reached a Tibetan village where the police agreed to let them take photographs on the condition that they would then return to Danba. The journalists agreed and returned as requested. In Danba they were followed and later decided to return to Chengdu.
A reporter on his way to Ganzi Prefecture was stopped at a police checkpoint and turned away. “There is thick ice ahead,” the police said.
Two reporters tried on three separate days to reach Ganzi and/or Aba Prefectures. On each occasion they were stopped by the police and forced to drive back to Chengdu. At one point, in an ethnic Tibetan part of Chengdu, they were surrounded by a group of police. Their IDs were checked and they were told they were not allowed to conduct interviews there. A photographer was asked to erase pictures already taken but refused. They were followed in Chengdu by plainclothes police.
Last November a journalist was able to reach Tawu nunnery, where one of the self-immolations happened. She was able to stay there for about six hours. At the end of the day she was detained by police on her way to another Tibetan monastery. She was forced to leave the area because “the situation is now dangerous for foreigners”. She was followed by police as she drove 200 km out of Tawa to Kangding “in pitch darkness and along snowy and winding roads”.