Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Reporter beaten to death in Shanxi

Coal mine accidents kill tens of thousands of Chinese miners each year, most of which happen in Shanxi province, the major coal mining province in northern China. The actual number of workers die in mine accidents have always been a top secret that nobody knows. Mine owners hide the number because they are afraid of being suspended, or closed. Local government hides the number because they are afraid of being reprimanded by the central government. Families of victims will keep their mouth shut because of threatens from both owners and the local government.

Accidents still happen everyday, and people make money out of tragedies. Some reporters take money from mine owners and local government in return to cover this secret. Four journalists from top news agencies in China was disciplined for taking money from the mine owners after a tragic accident killed dozens of people. Some other people pretend to be reporters and then demand money from the owners and local government to keep the secret.

Lan Chengzhang of the China Trade Daily was beaten to death when investigating an unlicensed coal mine in Datong, Shangxi on Jan 9, 2007. Lan Chengzhang is a contracted reporter for the Shanxi station of the China Trade Daily. However, the miner owners quoted the station director that he had not been assigned the investigation. They suggested that Mr. Lan was not authorized the investigation by the station, but rather conducted it sideline to extort money from the mine owners. The China Trade Daily confirmed that Mr. Lan was a reporter working for the Daily, and vowed to protect its employee's benefit.

It's always hard to know the truth in China, especially to tell the truth in Shanxi. In 1988, a reporter of Xinhua News agency discovered Yuncheng government built faked irrigation projects to cheat funding from central government. The local government claimed that they used $40 million grant to build some irrigation system that benefit a 10 thousand acres. Actually, not only the system will never work because of local geology, but they only built many installments with one of the 4 walls, that is the wall facing the railroad so that officials of the central government riding the train would see it. Nobody knows how the money was spent. The reporter wrote an article on the People's Daily, the official communications of the Chinese Communism Party. Subsequently he was arrested in Beijing by Shanxi police, and sentenced 12 years in jail on fabricated charges. The case was highly publicized in the nation by journalism groups and human rights organizations, as well as by overseas democratic movement as a negative example of the communism ruling. Despite public pressures and help from more than 100 legal experts, the reporter served full term in jail. The name of the reporter is Gao Qinrong (in the picture, Gao Qinrong with his wife Duan Maoying).

According to Chinese law, Mr. Gao will no longer allowed a career in journalism as a convicted criminal, although the crime is what any report should do: reporting a crime.

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