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China 12 January 2005

Government brutally breaks up South Korean parliamentarians’ press conference

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) voiced dismay after Chinese state security agents broke up a press conference in Beijing called by South Korean parliamentarians over the plight of North Korean refugees.

Around 40 journalists were brutally ejected from a hotel conference room on 12 January 2005.

The worldwide press freedom organisation said Beijing was using "unacceptable methods" to stop the press reporting on North Korean refugees in China, that "only confirmed the Chinese government’s obvious collusion with the Pyongyang regime."

"China should allow Chinese and foreign journalists to report freely on North Korea", it said in a letter to Chinese foreign minister Zhaoxing Li.

Men claiming to be from the Chinese foreign ministry agents stopped the South Korean parliamentarians from holding their press conference at the Sheraton Hotel, one of them yelling at journalists, "Everyone out, you can’t do this" and threatening those who asked for his name.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that some 40 journalists were roughly bundled out of the room by security agents.

The four South Korean deputies, including Kim Moon-soo, were there to brief the media on their investigative trip to Yanji Province in the north-east to check on the North Korean refugees.

They were also seeking to draw media attention to the plight of several South Koreans who are being held in China for coming to the aid of the refugees from North Korea.

"How can they do this to us, we are here lawfully and we have diplomatic passports", Park Seung-hwan, of the Grand National Party told AFP.

Two South Korean reporters were detained in China in 2004 for investigating the plight of North Korean refugees. Photographer Jae-hyun Seok was released in March 2004, after 14 months in detention. In September, a diplomatic magazine Zhanlue Yu Guanli (Strategy and Management) was closed after carrying an article by economist Wang Zhongwen criticising the North Korean regime.

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