Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Outspoken Chinese journalist has fingers chopped off


Unidentified men chopped off two fingers of a reporter from one of China's most outspoken and progressive newspapers in an apparent reprisal against his articles, a colleague and another newspaper said on Friday.

The specific reason for Wednesday's attack on Wen Chong, a journalist with the Southern Metropolis Daily, was unclear.

But violence against reporters, mostly those who report on crime and corruption, is becoming increasingly frequent in China, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said on its Web site,

In the latest attack, the men broke into Wen's home in Zhongshan city in southern Guangdong province, beat him up and chopped off the middle and index fingers on his right hand, a newspaper editor said by telephone.

"Our reporters have been attacked before. Our stories are relatively critical so it's easy to offend certain evil powers in society," the editor said. He declined to give further details.

The 30-year-old Wen shouted for help after the attackers fled, taking his fingers with them, the China Youth Daily reported. He was rushed to a nearby hospital.

No arrests have been made.

Wen and Zhongshan police could not be reached for comment.

Southern Metropolis Daily, based in Guangzhou, the freewheeling provincial capital of Guangdong, is one of China's most popular newspapers.

It broke the news in December 2003 of the reappearance of the deadly Sars virus. And it was first with the death of university-educated migrant worker Sun Zhigang while in police custody, forcing the government to scrap draconian rules that allowed police to arbitrarily detain migrant workers -- mainly farmers looking for odd jobs in cities and who lack permanent residency permits.

The newspaper's former manager and editor were jailed last year on corruption charges in a case critics said may have been retaliation for reports on workers rights and the Sars virus. A third has been released but placed under house arrest.

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