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Foreign reporters attacked while covering China protest

/ 02:49 PM February 17, 2012

BEIJING—Two foreign journalists have been attacked and dozens of villagers detained during protests in eastern China against land grabs that have drawn comparisons with last year’s rebellion in Wukan.

Residents of Panhe, a village in the eastern province of Zhejiang, have held several protests this month over government land seizures, one of China’s most pressing social issues.

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The theft of community land by officials triggered December riots in the southern village of Wukan that attracted international media attention and led to rare concessions by the provincial government.

On Friday, state media reported that dozens of people had been detained in Panhe, as two journalists — one French and one Dutch — said they had been set upon by unidentified men while trying to report on the protests.

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Villagers reached by phone told AFP the issue had now been resolved and that they did not want foreign media to get involved.

“They agreed with all the conditions we proposed, we realize it’s our own issue, and we don’t want foreign media to get involved,” said a resident who refused to be named.

Another villager surnamed Lu concurred, saying they could not take media interviews.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) said this week Remko Tanis, a journalist for the Netherlands Press Association, was beaten up by “a group of thugs and men who appeared to be plainclothes policemen” in Panhe.

Tanis said Panhe residents had been happy to talk to him on Wednesday.

A journalist for France 24 who asked not to be named said he was roughed up and his Chinese assistant beaten when they attempted to get to Panhe on Thursday.

“They punched my assistant in the face many times. His nose was bleeding and he has several bruises on his forehead,” he told AFP Friday, adding his camera had been smashed.

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Calls made to the government and police in Cangnan county — where Panhe is located — went unanswered and China’s foreign ministry did not immediately comment.

The state-run Global Times newspaper, meanwhile, said “several dozens of people” who took part in the protests earlier in February had been detained, including two villagers who were taken away this week by “plainclothes agents.”

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