Hong Kong journalists 'detained and beaten' in China

Hong Kong (AFP) - Hong Kong journalists covering violent protests in the rebel Chinese village of Wukan said they were detained and beaten by police as state press slammed "foreign media" for stoking the tensions.

Wukan, a 13,000-strong fishing village in the southern province of Guangdong, became a symbol of resistance against corruption after a mass uprising over allegedly illegal land grabs propelled it onto global front pages in 2011.

Lin Zulian, who played a key role in those protests, was detained in June and sentenced to three years in prison last week.

Chinese authorities said they had detained 13 residents Tuesday for "disturbing public order", which triggered a new round of protests.

Online footage running in Hong Kong local media and reported to be filmed by villagers showed them throwing bricks and stones at police with riot shields. Images also showed bloodied villagers, with reports police had fired tear gas and rubber bullets.

Law enforcement officers were "hitting the villagers, even the old", wrote one resident, Zou Shaobing, on a micro-blog.

Reporters were also then targeted.

A reporter from Hong Kong's liberal Ming Pao newspaper told local broadcaster Cable TV a group had broken into a villager's house where he and another two Hong Kong reporters were on Wednesday evening.

"At least 20 people knocked on the door, broke it down and requested us to kneel down. One of the reporters didn't manage to kneel down and was shoved to the floor. Another reporter was punched and I was slapped twice," the unnamed male reporter said.

They were then taken to the local police station for interrogation, he said, where they were asked about how they had entered the village, who they had contacted and were asked to write a letter promising not to visit the area again.

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post newspaper said its reporter was one of the others detained at the villager's home.

"The Post is highly concerned about the incident and condemns the detention of journalists," the newspaper said.

- 'Beaten and removed' -

Two other Hong Kong reporters were stopped just outside Wukan and were held in a police station for around five hours where they had their phones investigated and fingerprints recorded.

One of them told AFP that they had to sign forms admitting they were conducting "illegal reporting" and that they would never do so again in the area.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association called on the city government to investigate and ensure journalists working on the mainland were protected.

It said that at least five journalists and photographers from Hong Kong had been "beaten and removed from their hideout in Wukan".

The reporters had been held for six hours before being released and returned "unwillingly" to Hong Kong, the statement added.

The Global Times, closely linked to the Chinese Communist Party, blamed foreign press for interference.

It said "unscrupulous media" had "encouraged, planned and organised the chaos (in Wukan)" but that local police had not resorted to violence.

The newspaper said life in Wukan had now "returned to normal".

Ming Pao reported that villagers had been offered 20,000 yuan (US$3,000) for information on "foreign forces".

AFP journalists said access to the village had been blocked by police Tuesday.

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