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Interview with village protest leader cut short by gang

Dutch journalist assaulted in China

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

PANHE, China - Dutch freelance journalist Remko Tanis, who resides in Shanghai, came away from a recent assignment as a kicked and beaten man. The attack took place at a Chinese village where villagers were protesting an illegal land grab by officials, one of numerous such cases throughout China.

Tanis, who lived in Harlingen, Texas as a Dutch exchange student years ago, was assaulted by a gang of “few hundred men", who he thinks were plain clothes police.

The assault took place in Panhe on China’s southeast coast, where Tanis had travelled to report on ongoing protests against government officials accused of illegally selling land to real estate developers. Tanis is the China correspondent for a Dutch commercial news channel and a syndicate of Dutch regional newspapers.

The men attacked while he was interviewing the villagers’ protest leader. Tanis reported that it is also fairly common in China to hire a gang from a neighbouring village or even a different region where people do not mind to earn some extra money for “carrying out intimidation attempts.” Every foreign journalist in China experiences this type of situation every once in a while, according to Tanis, who was arrested and taken away and had his bag confiscated. He was subjected to kicks and punches for about five to ten minutes.


The villagers he had talked with received a much harder beating. Tanis thinks that the protesters actually hoped that their protest would escalate so that their case might come to the attention of the national authorities in Beijing. They pin their hopes on the statements by China’s prime minister, who has said repeatedly that authorities involved in the illegal expropriation of land deserve punishment. He is expected to reiterate this point in his speech at the Communist party’s next annual congress. Tanis suspects that this prospect offers the villagers hope.

The Dutchman who saw his notebook and camera card confiscated, does not rate Panhe’s local authorities as particularly bright. They seemed to believe that a few punches would make the story to go away. Instead, the Panhe controversy has become a widely reported incident, making news in every part of the world.