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Chinese government detains foreign journalists in Beijing

by Jorge Hernandez on March 1, 2011

Foreign journalists are finding it harder to report in China as the government there responds "nervously" to spreading unrest in the Middle East, according to Reuters on March 1.

In recent months, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain have all experienced political and social unrest.

A separate March 1 article links net access in Libya to rebels uncontrollable by the government, according to the BBC.

In Beijing, foreign reporters have been detained from a shopping district where there was supposedly a protest planned.

"It's a busy street with many people passing through it. There was nothing going on. So many reporters went there on receiving whose instructions? Who called them to congregate there and mill around? Foreign reporters in China must respect China's rules and laws. This is an international norm," said Jiang Yu, a Foreign Minister spokeswoman.

The areas of Wanfujing, Xidan, Tiananmen and Beijing Station have been referred to as "special zones" where foreign journalists must apply for official application letters and meet requirements before they are given permission to report, according to Reuters.

Tiananmen Square was the site of the famous 1989 student protests in Beijing, where the government sent military troops to quell the social uprisings.

Recently, a Chinese website from the United States asked for the Chinese to follow suit in the democratic rebellions across the Middle East.

A foreign cameraman was physically harassed and arrested by the police, according to the news source.

"This is the worst aggression against the foreign press we've seen since the Olympics in 2008. Such a heavy-handed response discredits the ruling Chinese Communist Party and highlights their fear of popular opposition," said Bob Dietz, of The Committee to Protect Journalists, in an online statement.

Both the European Union and the U.S. Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman Jr., have condemned the recent Chinese government interactions with foreign journalists, according to Reuters. 

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