BBC reporters attacked by ‘thugs’ in Xinhua county, near Loudi, Hunan

[CORRECTION ALERT: Xinhua is a county, not a township. I’ve corrected that error.]

Local people forced BBC correspondent John Sudworth from their village (Photo credit: BBC News)

JISHOU, HUNAN — A BBC correspondent reported today that he and his team were attacked while attempting to interview a local woman about her petitions to the national government.

The altercation occurred in a village of Xinhua county in the jurisdiction of Loudi, a city about three and half hours from Jishou.

John Sudworth says a group of people prevented him from meeting Yang Linghua, a resident who planned to journey to Beijing to present her grievances to the national congress there. Then, Sudworth says he and his team were physically accosted and their equipment smashed. Then they were chased out of town.

Eventually, uniformed police and local officials came out, and required Sudworth and the other journalists to sign a forced confession that they had conducted an “illegal interview.” Ms Yang was also detained, he says in his account.

After we left the village, we were chased down and had our car surrounded by a group of about 20 thugs.

They were then joined by some uniformed police officers and two officials from the local foreign affairs office, and under the threat of further violence, we were made to delete some of our footage and forced to sign the confession.

It was a very one-sided negotiation, but it at least gave us a way out – a luxury denied to the petitioners who find themselves on the receiving end of similar intimidation and abuse.

A video sent to us by Yang Linghua’s sister shows her being detained by some of the same people who threatened us.

Every year, the National People’s Congress meets in Beijing to discuss legislation and policy, and basically to rubberstamp whatever the Politburo has proposed. By law, it’s also a time for local Chinese to petition the national government for relief or to appeal local officials’ decisions. But, according to Sudworth, in practice such petitioners are kept away from the NPC and their representatives to avoid any incidents that would embarrass the Chinese Communist Party.

Sudworth and his team had planned to meet Yang Linghua at her home and travel with her to Beijing. She and her family claim their land was stolen from them three years ago, and her father was beaten so badly that he died. It seems that she will be prevented to bring her appeal to the NPC this year.

More details are at the BBC.

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