US Ambassador Decries Chinese Abuse of Journalists at Rally

Unidentified men surround a foreign journalist after they pushed him to the ground in the shopping street of Wangfujing, after calls for a "Jasmine Revolution" protest, organized through the internet, in Beijing, February 27, 2011

The American ambassador in China is protesting the detention and beating of foreign journalists at the scene of a proposed protest rally in Beijing.

A mysterious Internet posting had called for Chinese to turn out for a second consecutive Sunday at sites across the country for "Jasmine Rallies" inspired by the uprisings across the Middle East. But thousands of police flooded the protest sites, making sure there was no chance for rallies to begin.

In a posting on the U.S. embassy website Monday, Ambassador Jon Huntsman said he has spoken to several journalists who reported being illegally detained or harassed while attempting to cover the rallies. He said one reporter was severely beaten and detained for several hours.

Huntsman called the police action "unacceptable and deeply disturbing." He called on the Chinese government to hold the perpetrators accountable, and he urged it to respect the rights of foreign journalists in China.

VOA's Beijing bureau chief, Stephanie Ho, was among those who were harassed at the rally scene in Beijing. She was shoved into a shop by what appeared to be plainclothes police and then detained for an hour.

Several journalists reported having cameras and video recorders confiscated or pictures and videos erased.

An Internet posting earlier in the week had urged Chinese to turn out at specified sites in Beijing, Shanghai and 11 other cities and simply "stroll past" at a specified hour. The authors of the posting have not identified themselves but are believed to be Chinese dissidents living abroad.

The government has blocked web postings and text messages that refer to the "Jasmine Revolution," a reference to the Middle East protests that originated in Tunisia.