BBC crew 'forced to sign confession' in China

Journalist John Sudworth says a large group of people "assaulted us and smashed all of our cameras"

independent, report, bbc, regulation, model, ofcom, uk

Image: Jonathan Brady / PA Wire/Press Association Images

A BBC journalist says he and his crew were assaulted and forced to sign a confession while attempting to cover a story in China.

In a detailed account of the incident, BBC's John Sudworth says he and his team had arranged to meet a woman in a village in China's central Hunan Province, and travel with her to Beijing by train.

Yang Linghua had been hoping to raise allegations in the capital that her family's land was stolen and that her father was so badly beaten he eventually died.

The trip to Beijing was timed to coincide with the Chinese government's annual parliamentary session (the National People's Congress).

However, Mr Sudworth says when they arrived in the village they found their path blocked by a large group of people who "assaulted us and smashed all of our cameras".

He says that after leaving the village, the crew's car was surrounded by 'about 20 thugs'.

"They were then joined by some uniformed police officers and two officials from the local foreign affairs office, and under the threat of further violence, we were made to delete some of our footage and forced to sign the confession," he explained.

"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."

Mr Sudworth added: "A video sent to us by Yang Linghua's sister shows her being detained by some of the same people who threatened us."

The BBC team said they have not heard from the family since.

In a statement quoted by The Guardian, the Foreign Correspondents Club of China said: "This violent effort to deter news coverage is a gross violation of Chinese government rules governing foreign correspondents, which expressly permit them to interview anybody who consents to be interviewed."