Belgian television crew violently attacked in central China
They were attacked in the central Chinese province of Henan while making a documentary about AIDS patients.
Beijing - Members of a Belgian television crew described Saturday how they were violently attacked in the central Chinese province of Henan while making a documentary about AIDS patients.
Tom Van de Weghe, a journalist with Flemish radio and TV station VRT, told AFP he, an Australian cameraman and a Belgian assistant were set upon by eight men late Thursday who had forced them out of their vehicle.
"It was dark, we were hit many times, sometimes violently. They acted like animals," he said, adding they had been followed all day by two cars.
They were able to get away and escape to the airport but their attackers had taken their video tapes, money and personal possessions including a mobile phone, the journalist said.
The crew was working on a report on AIDS in Henan, where in the 1990s thousands of peasants were infected after selling their blood in a lucrative scheme organised by local civil servants who, keen to make money quickly, hadn't put in place the correct medical precautions.
Residents in the area told the VRT crew the attackers were acting for local officials and they had already targeted a Chinese journalist and anti-AIDS activists.
The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China (FCCC) condemned the attack.
"This illegal and brutal act is a disgrace to Henan and to China," said Jonathan Watts, president of the FCCC. "If the government is serious about the rule of law and opening to the media, the culprits must be caught and punished. "There is enough evidence to identify the perpetrators. The central authorities should send a clear message that local governments must not use thugs to intimidate journalists."