Hong Kong : A row over the beating by Chinese police of three Hong Kong journalists covering riots in the western Chinese city of Urumqi deepened Wednesday after officials accused the journalists of inciting protestors.
Xinjiang provincial information director Hou Hanmin said the reporter and cameramen beaten and detained Friday had incited crowds of demonstrators by making hand gestures.
She also claimed the journalists refused repeated requests to show their identification and accused other media outlets of “irresponsible” reporting of the incident.
Hanmin’s comments defending the police were rejected by the TV stations the journalists worked for, with Hong Kong’s TV station TVB saying Wednesday the remarks were “false and one-sided”.
The three journalists, all of whom had press accreditation, claim they were hit with batons, kicked and detained for hours while covering the ethnic unrest in Urumqi where ethnic Han Chinese staged protests after a series of needle attacks blamed on the Muslim Uighur minority.
Five reporters, including two journalists from Hong Kong’s government-run radio station RTHK, also said they were briefly detained Sunday as they tried to interview people tear-gassed by military police.
Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee voiced concern over the treatment of the journalists on behalf of the city’s government on a visit to Beijing Sunday.
Ongoing tension between Xinjiang’s ethnic Uighur and Han Chinese residents reached a climax in July when bloody clashes broke out on the streets of Urumqi, leaving at least 197 people dead, and more than 1,000 injured.
Fresh demonstrations broke out last week, leaving five people dead in Urumqi.
The former British colony Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule in 1997 but has a mini-constitution guaranteeing it freedom of the press along with judicial and political autonomy.