The owner of the mine where The China Trade News employee Lan Chenzhang was fatally beaten on 10 January surrendered to the authorities on 19 January after a police manhunt. The mine-owner, Hou Zhenrun, is alleged to have told eight men to attack Lan with iron bars and other improvised weapons.
There is still considerable uncertainty about the motives of Lan and his colleague Chang Hanwen for going to the mine. The police maintain that they did not go there to write about the working conditions of its miners but to extort the equivalent of 130 US dollars from the owner in return for their silence.
Despite an outcry about the case, The China Trade News and other state media refuse to regard Lan’s death as a press freedom violation, arguing that he was just a ordinary employee of the newspaper and not a journalist.
Call for thorough probe into case of journalist beaten to death
Reporters Without Borders today called on the Chinese authorities to carry out a thorough investigation into the death of Lan Chengzhang of Zhongguo Maoyi Bao (China Trade News), who died from a brain haemorrhage after being beaten with clubs by assailants on 10 January while reporting on the situation of miners in Hunyuan, in the northern province of Shanxi.
The authorities are refusing to regard Lan as a journalist because he did not have a press card and had not received official permission to do the report.
“Although Lan had not been authorised to cover the situation at the Hunyuan mine, his death should be investigated properly,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Reporters often have to face hired thugs or security guards when they go to mines. We also call on the authorities to ensure the safety of journalists who investigate the working conditions of Chinese miners.”
Lan went to the apparently illegal mine with other Zhongguo Maoyi Bao employees. He was attacked while two of his colleagues were in the mine owner’s office and he was waiting in the car with the driver. The driver said the assailants appeared to be thugs employed by the mine owner. Lan was taken to a hospital in Datong and died the next day. The driver and one of the other Zhongguo Maoyi Bao employees also sustained injuries.
Lan had been working for the newspaper for less than a month and was still in his trial period. The provincial authorities said they have ordered an investigation but do not regard Lan as a journalist. He has been accused on the Tianya site of being a “false journalist” who practised extortion - a charge often levelled against journalists.