MAC: Mines and Communities

Slaying outrages China: Thugs allegedly killed reporter over story

Published by MAC on 2007-01-19

Slaying outrages China: Thugs allegedly killed reporter over story

GEOFFREY YORK, Toronto Globe and Mail

19th January 2007

BEIJING -- The killing of a Chinese journalist by thugs in a coal-mining region has cast a deeper shadow over China's corruption-plagued coal industry, where thousands of people die in explosions and other disasters every year.

The journalist, Lan Chengzhang, was beaten to death by more than 20 assailants who were allegedly hired by the owner of an illegal mine that the journalist had been investigating.

The boss of the mine had fled into hiding and police were searching for him, according to Chinese reports yesterday. More than 70 police officers have been assigned to investigate the case. Yesterday, three men were arrested, Agence France-Presse reported.

The Chinese media have been outraged by the killing, which has triggered an unusual wave of criticism and outspoken commentary by newspapers and websites across the country in the past two days, including the state-controlled media.

Corruption and violence are endemic in China's troubled coal-mining industry. Last year a total of 4,746 miners were killed in about 3,000 explosions, floods, fires and other disasters.

The journalist was killed in Shanxi province in northern China, one of the biggest strongholds of the country's coal industry.

The 35-year-old journalist, who worked for China Trade News, died from brain injuries on Jan. 10, a day after the attack. A driver who was working with Mr. Lan was also beaten and injured. But the attack was not publicly reported until this week, when it was revealed by a message on a website forum.

A group of Chinese journalists tried to investigate the incident by visiting the hospital where Mr. Lan died, but police kept them from entering, a report said this week.

One newspaper, Beijing News, said the slaying was part of a campaign by thugs to intimidate anyone who investigates corruption in the coal industry. "Whether or not they are successful will depend on whether journalists have become afraid because of this," the newspaper said.

International media watchdogs, expressing concern over the killing, have called for a full investigation.

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