Chinese Citizen Journalist Killed

The story of Wei Wenhua's killing appeared in the Thursday 10 January edition of the Guardian.

What was Mr. Wenhua filming that would cause a large group of government workers set upon him?

On Monday, Wei Wenhau accidentally found himself a witness to a confrontation in the town where he lived in the central Chinese province of Hubei.

Villagers were quarreling with city officials who had arrived in the area to dump waste near their homes. When the officials started to unload the rubbish, a scuffle broke out.

Wenhau worked at a senior level for a construction company and was also a member of the Communist party. He was an upstanding member of the community and on seeing the violence he thought he'd record it.

Reporters With Boarders said this about the incident

Reporters Without Borders is appalled by the way a construction company executive, Wei Wenhua, was beaten to death by municipal law enforcement officers known as “chengguan” in Tianmen, in the province of Hubei, on 7 January when he used his mobile phone camera to film them in a violent clash with protesters.

“We are horrified by the readiness of the local authorities to trample on the freedom of information and expression,” the press freedom organisation said. “There was no justification for this behaviour. Wei is the first ‘citizen journalist’ to die in China because of what he was trying to film. He was beaten to death for doing something which is becoming more and more common and which was a way to expose law enforcement officers who keep on overstepping the limits.”

Because of the Chinese governments draconian efforts to suppress its citizens access to information through press censorship it takes the efforts of the average citizen to bring these stories into the light of day.

Paul Walsh help to expose this story which lead to his blog being Banned by the Chinese Government

China: Mass show of sympathy over Hubei man beaten to death
Posted January 10, 2008
Thousands of ordinary Chinese citizens have gathered outside government offices in the central city of Tianmen, Hubei province, in a popular wave of anger and sympathy following the beating to death of a man last week by law enforcement officials.

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Thanks, Mishima -- we'll keep Wei Wenhua and his family in our thoughts, and hope that others who, as citizens, do the work the media fails to do will remain safe.


I wonder if now we'll be banned in China, too...?

has been.

See David Denby's review in this week's The New Yorker Moral Landscape

Lou presented a vaguely worded outline of the film [Summer Palace] to the censors in Beijing, then screened the movie for the first time in Cannes, in 2006, whereupon the Chinese government banned him from making films for five years. By combining sex and politics in a volatile mix, he at least did something worth being punished for. Like other filmmakers who struggle against censorship, he could emigrate to the West, but part of me wants him to stay in China and fight for a better day.

Off topic, but worthy of note: The New Yorker this week is full of eye-popping articles and research... from the MySpace suicide to a really hard and factual look at what the new Intelligence czar Mike McConnell is doing.

A good look into McConnell's activities is a good start.

What We Know, since the article itself is not online. Some chilling stuff in the article... but here's something worthy of a sidebar unto itself.

"Let me make a disclosure," I said. "I have been monitored." I told him that, while I was researching "The Looming Tower," a book about Al Qaeda, the F.B.I. had come to my house, in Austin Texas, to ask about some calls that I had made from my home office. I also said that a source in the intelligence community had read a summary of a telephone conversation I had from home with a source in Egypt.

"I am not surprised at that," McConnell said. "Because you were getting a phone call from some telephone number that's associated with some known outfit -- O. K., that's moitored. In my view, it should be."

Actually, I had placed the call.

Wright goes on, throughout the article, providing even more chilling snippets from his own situation about how his home emails, etc. are monitored. In other words, a member of the press's actually telephone conversations, emails, etc. etc. are being listened into.

Most troubling for Wright:

"What bothers me is that my daughter's name came up in this," I said. The agents had told me they believed that she was the one making the calls. That was ridiculous, but it placed her on the F.B.I.'s link chart as an Al Aqeda connection. "Her name is not on any of our phones," I continued. "So how did her name arise?"

"I don't know," McConnell admitted. "Maybe you mentioned her name."

"That troubles me," I said.

It's stories like this that cause me to lose faith in humanity at times.

I think it was initially a French organization -- Reporters sans Frontieres -- They've done some amazing work to record the numbers of reporters assailed while trying to cover the news.

What's amazing here is that, as Mishima notes, they are reporting on a Citizen who is murdered trying to cover the news.

Their site is Reporters without Borders for Press Freedom and is available for viewing in French, Spanish, Arabic... Chinese -- (forgive my ignorance, I have no idea if Mandarian or Cantonese)... etc.

Over at the guardian news blog... some updates Wei Wenhau: the first citizen journalist to be killed , it's being reported that the Paul Walsh, the blogger who first published the information about Wei Wenhua's murder has had his blog site banned by the Chinese .. but a post at another site, Global Neighbourhoods, Chinese beat blogger to death; ban Paul Walsh for reporting it
that others (such as Google) may be complicit.

Today, Paul reports that his blog, Segala has been banned in China. Paula writes that he is doing precisely what many Chinese bloggers do. He is using a proxy server to bypass the Chinese censors.

But there may be a curve ball, that would be a new one on me. I just tried to subscribe to Segala with my Google Reader and could not. This could be some sort of tech glitch, but I tried three times. Coincidence, perhaps. Perhaps not. A few weeks ago, when I was writing about Egypt's Wael Abbas, who posts videos on YouTube about police briutality, YouTube temporarily took his videos down before restoring them. youTube is of course, owned by Google.

However, I clicked on Paul Walsh's blog Segala and had no trouble accessing it. Nevertheless, the murder by government law enforcement of an average citizen simply "recording" events is chilling.

And now CNN Asia weighs in: Death Pits Technology against Control

More and more victims of abuse already are standing up. "It's the latest in a series of incidents which have pit provincial government authorities against citizens -- those who are protesting against something who are recording and blogging and writing about something that they consider scandalous," Goldkorn said.

Some journalists and bloggers have even compared Wei's fatal beating to the Rodney King case, when the Los Angeles police repeatedly clubbed him. Others say this is reminiscent of the 2003 death of graphic designer Sun Zhigang in the Chinese city of in Guangzhou. The 27-year-old college graduate was fatally beaten while in detention for not carrying proper identification. The public outcry, amplified in the country's blogosphere, prompted China's premier to restrict police powers of detention.

Years ago, killings such as these would not have received such attention, and victims would have been forgotten, but with modern technology in the hands of ordinary citizens, abusive officials are getting caught in the act.