In Guangzhou recently, the German TV station Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF) was interviewing a young man about Southern Weekly when a team of plainclothes police allegedly swooped in and smuggled him into a white van. The description on the YouTube video from channel ChinaNewsChannal suggests that the officers kidnapped the man, Jiang Di, because he was giving the interview. Jiang had said — and this is all recorded — he hopes China’s papers, including Southern Weekly, can be more like foreign media, report the truth, and not compromise. There’s nothing there that’s very controversial, all things considered.
The last words he reportedly said were, “In fact I’m not afraid, not afraid.”
I saw this video earlier, and all the red flags went up. (I’m posting it now because the Washington Post’s Max Fisher just went ahead with the story, so it’s sure to be everywhere soon.) We know the Public Security Bureau does on occasion arrest people by throwing them into unmarked vehicles, but would they really do it in broad daylight in front of foreign media that’s conspicuously filming? No matter what you think of these PSB strongmen – sclerotic, cretinous, repugnant — you have to admit it seems unlikely they’d kidnap a citizen for giving an interview… right? Something else is going on here… right?
I don’t know. Let’s open it up for discussion. Especially if you’re German, lend us your two cents.
UPDATE, 11:24 pm: From Jo Floto, BBC’s Asia Bureau Chief in Beijing:
@beijingcream yes they did. Several times last week.
— Jo (@JoFloto) January 15, 2013
UPDATE, 1/16, 12:14 am (h/t Jonathan Alpart): According to a ZDF article published January 11 (it’s in German, so I’m relying on Google Translate here), the above incident happened on Thursday, January 10. Jiang Di told ZDF he was detained and interrogated for nine hours, but did not specify what he was asked. Then he was released.
The PSB officers apparently only moved in on Jiang after the cameras stopped rolling. The ZDF cameraman, judging by the video, then resumed filming.
We know the security bureau does on occasion arrest people by throwing them into unmarked vehicles, but would they really do it in broad daylight in front of foreign media that’s conspicuously still filming?
It does seem unlikely, but didn’t we just watch that happen? I can see questioning WHY they did it, but it’s pretty clear they WOULD do that in broad daylight with foreign media conspicuously filming because, unless the video is somehow faked, we just watched that happen.
Even if they’re arresting him for something totally unrelated to the interview, this is a terrible PR move, so my guess is that it really was related to the interview. If it wasn’t, I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t just have waited until the cameras were off. Probably whoever the ranking officer on the scene was just made the wrong judgement call about the negative PR that would be produced by arresting him vs. allowing him to continue to talk shit and (foolishly) decided tossing the guy into a van was the lesser of two evils.
That might seem like an implausible situation, but let’s keep in mind that the average PSB officer or even state security officer likely doesn’t have any training in Western PR or a ton of knowledge of how this sort of thing is going to be perceived outside China. It’s highly unlikely that someone at a higher level would have made this decision because they do have some knowledge and training in international relations and media and whatnot, but if this call was made by a street-level guy, it may literally have never occurred to him that this might be a bigger story than what the guy was saying in the interview.
Ah, I guess your comments don’t support HTML. The first graf above is supposed to be a blockquote; if you can edit it you may want to jump in and put quotes around it so it’s clear that’s your writing. Sorry about that!
Worthy clarification i suppose: I’m indeed questioning the why of it, not suggesting the video is fake.
Also, I know it was reported that protesters were bundled away in vans last week, but there seems to be a notable difference between this http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2013/01/10/video-anti-censorship-protesters-hauled-away/ and the story we’re given up top. The video release date (Jan. 12) and abrupt edit also gave me pause.
I found this story on reddit, and immediately people were speculating that he would be sent to a laogai (labor reform camp), and then people started doing the usual reddit thing, that’s right; 1984 quotes. I asked how posters could possibly know this guy would be sent to a labor camp, and people responded to me not only like I was ignorant, but that it’s common knowledge that China is just “that bad.” Fortunately I wasn’t called an 五毛党 like usual in these situations.
A few hours later it was revealed that that same news agency that filmed his capture was reporting he was released hours later.
It is true that China’s PR is awful, but I don’t think all the fault lies with them. I’d say Americans too are all too eager to jump on this bandwagon of China being an all-encompassing police state, as evidenced with how they just rolled with this story. I have a lot of speculation as to why this is the case, but I don’t want to get into it here. I may blog about it later, though.
Too whiney. Let’s face it, even when reddit-users get carried away like in this case, ask yourself; does it really sound that far-fetched? Perhaps it says more that such exaggerations sound believable.
“Hey, that guy over there is a rapist.”
“What? How do you know?”
“Everyone says he raped Cindy.”
“Well, I just checked, and that’s not true.”
“Oh, well, everyone knows he raped Cathy.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because he’s obviously a rapist.”
Actually it does sound pretty far-fetched that the guy would be thrown into a labor camp for something like this in today’s China. I think anyone who actually follows how the authorities handle people could probably guess that he would be hustled off to be grilled for a while and kicked loose with a stern warning to not harm the country’s interests by mouthing off to foreign devils. People who honestly think this guy was likely to be tossed in a camp probably also think that you can’t use the word “democracy” on the Chinese internet. Let’s get real. China is horrible, but we must have a more nuanced view of precisely how it is horrible.
MAC- the problem is that while you are right that its likely he wasn’t hurt, its also very possible that he could be beaten badly or tortured or even disappeared for weeks. You say that’s not likely, but its on the freaking menu.
And if that happened, do you think anyone would ever know? The answer of course is we would never know.
For your trouble comrade Wu Mao has been deposited in your account, congratulations you are 399 more posts away from a hand job.
Hahaha, OK, reality check!
Was this guy thrown into a labor camp?
Why is it that people like you who are obviously sooooooo anti-censorship and pro freedom of speech whip out the “wumao” card at anyone who has an opinion, however reasonable, that doesn’t follow the party line of China is an absolute evil empire?
Why am I asking anyway? You’re probably CIA.
You don’t know that, Jonathan. And even if you are right in this particular case, there are many other cases where you are flat wrong.
I can see you don’t like knee-jerk redditors, but your position here is just wrong.
Just a reminder for you folks that China is still an authoritarian police state that does not respect basic human rights or even their own constitution. I hope that young man is able to get released eventually.
Who is this a reminder to? No one doubts that China is an authoritarian police state etc. etc. China indeed does have a constitution — a very extensively written one — that “guarantees and protects the human rights of its citizens” (article 33 I think). So reporting and discussion like this is necessary for forcing close the gap between the perceived and the reality (constitutional governance vs. constitutional toilet paper). Everyone hopes this guy gets out free, but just hoping is a passive way of ensuring that nothing will change until someone else takes the first step for you.
They did it in broad daylight on purpose to throw fear into the population because they see this as a growing threat.
As a tactic it is perhaps very effective to all the bystanders at the scene, but this isn’t ever going to make the news or internet in China and be seen by locals.
This was seen on German TV, not in China. Even Anthony had translate this from “Das News”.
As I said it 1000 times before, the officials in China are just not “cool” enough. Not charming or likable or anything…. Though we need the whole tape to understand what has happened and why, it really is bad PR.
Was CCTV involved?
I mean, were they after an exclusive interview?
Bad jokes aside…
Hope Mr Jiang is OK!
Any news on his well-being?
He’ll be lucky if he doesn’t end up in a concentration camp with his organs for sale.
Dag, that’s cold. But the government said they would stop harvesting organs, not to say they ever did in the first place, mind you. So everything is ok now!
Not that it ever wasn’t.
Either a bad call from a local PSB after he thought the cameras were turned off, or a deliberate action to keep other people from giving interviews too supportive of Southern Weekend. If it’s the latter then the local authorities seem to be pretty scared of their people.
I have no idea what everyone is talking about. The police officer dressed in a police uniform stepped in front of the camera and blocked it with his hand.
Obvious there is nothing to see here.
Well Anthony as a media person you do need to be suspicious of being fooled, but in general this incident leaves me totally unsurprised. The government has become consistently more and more brutal and overt over the past 3-5 years.
What I think is important to recognize is that this is not the central party secret police. They exist and hand out brutal punishment, no doubt. They disappear people and torture them and really whatever the fuck they feel like doing. I mean, who is going to stop them?
However, these are local forces. They can do this stuff because they are empowered by what they see around them. Everyone else is doing it, so we can too! However this is not really the most common task they carry out, in my estimation. So you might ask yourself, how detailed and specific are the rules about what and how the police can or should do. And even if you had nice clear rules, what’s the chance those men knew and obeyed them? Answer, not bloody likely.
I mean, the local thugs beat that actor, Bale, with a videocamera running a year or so ago, angering Shaun Rein. You think they know from PR?
Also, I agree with the above comment from Little larry that they want us to know, they want people to be afraid. So they won’t hide these tactics.
I hope this is not the bangbus…