Reporters Without Borders urged China's foreign minister, Li Zhaoxing, to intervene in the case of Fu Xiancai, a vocal critic of the government's treatment of people displaced by the Three Gorges dam who was left paralysed from a beating after giving an interview to foreign journalists.
The press freedom organisation said local authorities apparently paid a criminal to punish Fu who had spoken out against expulsion without adequate compensation of hundreds of thousands of people, including himself, to make way for the dam, the world's largest hydro-electric project.
Human Rights in China reported that, Fu, who lives in Yangguidian, Hubei province in central China, was struck about the neck on 8 June 2006, by one or more unknown persons as he left the police station in Zigui, breaking his spinal column. He is being treated at Yichang hospital and denied contact with his family.
Three weeks earlier, on 19 May, German ARD television broadcast an interview with Fu, in which his face was not hidden, during which he criticised the attitude of the authorities towards those displaced by the Three Gorges dam. He had previously been threatened and attacked by officials in 2004 and 2005.
”Your ministry is responsible for organising and regulating the work of foreign journalists on Chinese territory, you are therefore responsible for ensuring their safety and those with whom they conduct interviews,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“Violence as serious as this provides new proof of the lack of progress in this area. It is not enough to provide treatment for Fu Xiancai, who is being bizarrely kept away from his family and the press. Those responsible must be punished.”
“Two years away from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, it is extremely worrying that such brutal methods should be used to punish Chinese citizens who dare to speak to foreign journalists”, it said. “This case and many others show that Beijing's promises to the International Olympic Committee to ensure complete freedom for foreign journalists are not being kept”.
”Your ministry is continually monitoring, controlling and obstructing the movements of foreign correspondents, while nothing is done to protect Chinese journalists and citizens who dare to work or to speak out. We call on you to urgently revise the foreign correspondents' guide,” it concluded.
The head of regional NDR television, which is responsible for ARD, and the German foreign minister, have both protested about the attack to the Chinese authorities. Jobst Flog, director general of NDR, said, “There is no doubt that the attack was an act of revenge because of his statements to German television.”
Reporters Without Borders is particularly concerned about frequent assaults on journalists and activists by criminals often on the orders of local authorities or businessmen. In October 2005, anti-corruption activist Lu Banglie was beaten up by delinquents in the southern China village of Taishi, just after meeting Benjamin Joffe-Walt, a journalist on the British daily The Guardian.