Hong Kong journalists among those detained in China's Wukan crackdown

Villagers including schoolchildren take part in a protest march, demanding the release of their village chief Lin Zuluan, in Wukan, China.
Villagers including schoolchildren take part in a protest march, demanding the release of their village chief Lin Zuluan, in Wukan, China. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG - Five Hong Kong reporters, including a South China Morning Post journalist, were detained and questioned in a crackdown on protesters Wednesday in the southern Chinese village of Wukan, the paper reported.

The journalists were detained when they were interviewing villagers for their coverage of Tuesday's violent clashes, when locals said police fired tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters who were against the jailing of a former protest leader on corruption charges.

Tensions rose on Wednesday evening, when uniformed and plain-clothed police officers conducted house-to-house searches in the hunt for protesters, Reuters reported.

The Post reported the detention of its journalist on its website on Thursday (Sept 15), saying it was "highly concerned about the incident and condemns the detention of journalists".

According to the paper, its journalist - who had credentials from Beijing authorising him to work on the mainland - was released at around 2am on Thursday morning and had safely returned to Hong Kong.

The Post journalist and two other journalists from another Hong Kong publication had been invited to interview a villager at the resident's house on Wednesday, when "two dozen unidentified men broke into the house and pushed the Post reporter to the ground", the paper said. The journalists and the villager were accused of stealing.

The two journalists told the Post reporter one of them had reportedly been punched in the stomach by the men and another one was slapped twice in the face.

All three were then taken to a local police station, where the two other Hong Kong reporters from another publication were also held.

According to The Post, they were questioned separately and accused of "illegal" reporting and breaching police cordon.

The Post said its journalist was released after questioning, while the other Hong Kong journalists were made to sign a "confession letter" saying they agreed they would not return.

Wukan, located in the province of Guangdong, made global headlines in 2011 in an uprising over allegedly illegal land grabs. The protests led authorities to grant direct elections in the village.

Tuesday's clashes were triggered after Lin Zuluan, one of the protest leaders of the 2011 uprising who was democratically elected as village chief, was sentenced to three years imprisonment on graft and other charges.