Reporters Without Borders is worried to learn that the Chinese authorities are holding a group of journalists from the South Korean daily JoongAng Ilbo on suspicion of spying. Arrested near China’s border with North Korea on 20 September, they were reportedly travelling on tourist visas.
“We demand an explanation of this arbitrary detention of a group of journalists whose number has not been confirmed,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Press visas are hard to get and, when journalists lack them, the Chinese authorities often use this as grounds for preventing them from working in this sensitive border area. We call on the authorities to release them without delay.”
According to a report in the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo, the JoongAng Ilbo group consisted of four journalists, the head of a Seoul-based government transport research centre and a local guide. Chinese soldiers arrested them in a supposedly restricted military zone near the River Tumen, which forms the border with North Korea.
South Korean foreign ministry officials told Associated Press on 23 September that the JoongAng Ilbo journalists had been held in a hotel since their arrest near the border. Without saying exactly how many were being held, the officials said the journalists were travelling on tourist visas.
The Chinese authorities do not like foreign reporters visiting the area near the North Korean border. A South Korean freelance journalist, Seok Jae-hyun, was arrested in 2003 for filming North Korean refugees fleeing to China and was held for 14 months on a charge of “trafficking in human beings.”