Remko Tanis, from Netherlands Press Association was beaten up yesterday morning (Feb. 15th) by a group of thugs and men who appeared to be plainclothes policemen in the village of Panhe, Zhejiang province, while covering the recent uprising against local party officials. The group also confiscated his notebook and documents about land disputes that were handed to him by villagers from Panhe and two other neighboring places with similar grievances. Although he did not have the chance to take pictures, the memory card of his camera was also confiscated. “Getting in touch with the people in Panhe is risky”, Tanis says.
He arrived at Panhe around 6h30, while the policemen that are surrounding the village were still sleeping. He managed to meet leaders of the protests and interviewed them for about 90 minutes. Knowing about the presence of a foreign journalist, people from other villages came to give him documents about their own problems. Outside, there was a funeral going on and another one was about to start.
At around 9h45 a group of around 100 policemen and thugs smashed violently into the room where Tanis was conducting interviews and started to beat the villagers and the reporter. During the tumult, the correspondent was grabbed by two people from the local Foreign Affairs Office who pushed him into a car. He asked for his bag, which had been taken by the policemen/thugs, and got it back.
He was driven towards the town of Longang, from where he had left in the morning. On the way, the car encountered a group of about 10 thugs who stopped it. These men pulled everyone, including the officials, out of the car, beat Tanis again and took his bag. The reporter asked who they were and why they were assaulting him, but did not get any answer. Soon another car from the local Foreign Affairs Office showed up; the reporter was forced to get in and taken to a hotel in Longang. There the correspondent got his bag back, but without his notebook and the documents. From there, he was taken by car to Wenzhou, where he checked into a hotel to write and send his story. All afternoon he was harassed by police phone calls. After finishing his work, he left the place.