Wednesday, August 13, 2008

In which I help the Chinese government resolve a pesky issue involving John Ray's detention

I just read something in the 2008 Olympics FriendFeed room. Here's part of what I read:

BRITISH journalist John Ray has been detained by Chinese security officers for covering a pro-Tibet protest in Beijing.

Ray, of London-based ITV News, was rushing to cover the demonstration outside the National Stadium when he was apparently mistaken for a protester.

"Are you arresting me? I am a journalist," Ray is reported to have shouted as he was taken away in a police van.

He later said that he told officials repeatedly that he was not a protester, although he did not display any official media accreditation.

"They bundled me out of the park," Ray was quoted as saying by The Associated Press.

"They forced me to the floor, dragged me, manhandled me into a restaurant next door."

AFP provided further detail:

Up to seven protesters were arrested within seconds, while Ray was dragged into a nearby restaurant and forcibly held down by officers who also stamped on his hands, they said.

Ray, who is fully accredited to report in Beijing during the Olympic Games, said he was detained for around 20 minutes in the restaurant and in a police car before being released, and that his equipment bag was confiscated....

His shoes were scuffed, the back of his trousers and shirt were covered in grime and he displayed some bruising on his hand.

ITN cameraman Ben England said he tried to film the protest but was physically prevented from doing so by police who manhandled him and used umbrellas to try to block his camera.

Well, you know how uppity those press people get, so I'm sure that this story is going to get a small, inconsequential, sheep-following community riled up. So, in the spirit of Olympic goodwill, I'm going to help the Chinese by writing a press release for them. They should probably wait a few days before issuing it, but once they do, I'm sure that this will clear things up for everyone concerned.

Earlier this week an incident occurred in our city in which a visitor was asked to leave the National Stadium. We stand firmly behind the actions of our security staff, who acted appropriately to ensure the safety of the people in the National Stadium area. They took measures to protect other staff members who according to witnesses on our staff and among the general public was being investigated in an inappropriate and harassing manner. Beijing welcomes over 600,000 visitors annually; disputes and disagreements between our guests and our staff very rarely occur.

This was not an issue relating to the city's official press policy. In fact, Beijing recently made a policy change to allow press to look at dirty smutty Western Internet sites that good Chinese people have no interest in viewing. But we have to account for unrefined Western tastes.

We have heard the concerns that have been expressed, and we hope that online discussion concerning Beijing can now return to focus on the terrific sporting events we currently have on view and the many exciting public ceremonies that we are offering to support them. We thank you for your comments.

Department of Communications
City of Beijing

And yes, if the press release sounds familiar to you, I stole it.

P.S. I'm willing to bet that "John Ray" is a pseudonym. And "Ben England"? How convenient.

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