BBC journalists in China were forced to sign a confession as part of a one-sided negotiation which was preceded by intimidation and destruction of their equipment. They were there to interview a woman called Yang Linghua, instead the country had a different story in store for them.
John Sudworth, BBC Journalist The story we ended up with, however, reveals more about the exercise of power in China than any interview ever could. It is one that involves violence, intimidation and a forced confession.
When the journalists arrived in her village, their way was blocked by a group of people who assaulted them and destroyed their equipment. Even after they had left the village, they were chased down and their car was surrounded by “about twenty thugs”.
The thugs were joined by uniformed policemen and two officials from the local foreign affairs office. The journalists were forced to delete some of their footage and then sign the confession.
John Sudworth, BBC Journalist It was a very one-sided negotiation, but it at least gave us a way out – a luxury denied to the petitioners who find themselves on the receiving end of similar intimidation and abuse.
The “petitioners” that Sudworth mentions refers to those people in China who have grievances with the ruling Communist party, Yang Linghua is one such petioner. Every year, thousands of them arrive in Beijing to submit their complaints with the “State Bureau of Letters and Calls”.
Though the chances of success for these petitions are slim, this is perhaps the only hope for them, points out the BBC report.
The system is also Communist Party run, of course, and the chances of success are tiny. But for many, it’s the only chance they’ve got, and they often continue to petition, in vain, for years.
BBC had interviewed Yang Linghua's sister three years ago who was on a petitioning trip to Beijing. The two sisters allege that their land was illegally taken away from their father. This resulted in a scuffle and their father eventually getting beaten to death.
Yang’s sister and mother were already placed under unofficial house arrest ahead of this petitioning event. Yang was later not allowed to even board the train to Beijing from her village.
The report said that there has been no news of Yang and her family following their disappearance. They are awaiting a response from government officials about their safety.