German journalists ask Merkel to address China harassment

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 August, 2012, 9:55am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 August, 2012, 9:55am


 BERLIN - German journalists based in China have asked Chancellor Angela Merkel to address their precarious working conditions when she meets with Chinese leaders this week in Beijing.

In a letter to Merkel published Sunday, the 15 print and broadcast journalists complain of repeated arbitrary harassment by Chinese authorities that hamper the work of foreign correspondents.

“The behavior of the police and state security in willfully obstructing our work has not changed. They have even blatantly threatened us by saying they would not renew our visas were we to report on ’sensitive’ issues,” it said.

“In our view, this kind of uncertainty serves as a tool of intimidation.”

The journalists said they have been alarmed in recent years by the number of foreign colleagues threatened, harassed and even beaten while working in China.

It noted that Melissa Chan, an American journalist working for Al Jazeera, was forced to leave the country in May.

“This move marked a new height in the kind of intimidations and restrictions directed against foreign journalists,” said the letter, which was signed by the journalists.

Merkel, along with several of her cabinet members, will be in Beijing on Thursday and Friday for a second round of Sino-German intergovernmental talks focusing on bilateral and international issues, as well as economic cooperation.

The foreign correspondents said their working conditions had not improved since Merkel brought up the issue in June 2011, when the first such talks between the two nations were held.

The letter cites several tactics employed by authorities: interviewees taken away and pressured not to talk to reporters; Chinese reporting assistants beaten and asked by security personal to spy on foreign colleagues; and blocked entry into regions of the country.

They say new restrictions were imposed by authorities following last year’s Arab Spring, because Beijing fears a similar call for democratic reforms.

“The Chinese Foreign Ministry claims that nothing has changed, but in practice journalists are at the mercy of security forces here,” the letter said.