Journalist nabbed after demolition hostage drama

CHINA - A journalist is being held in criminal detention in Shandong province for allegedly keeping a man in illegal custody during a protest over forced home demolitions.

Chen Baocheng and six of his fellow villagers in Pingdu, Shandong province, have been detained since Saturday after allegedly keeping a construction working captive for 25 hours, according to local police.

The reporter covers news on judiciary and law enforcement matters for the Beijing-based Caixin Media group, but originates from Shandong province.

The case has received huge public attention since it was first reported online on Sunday.

Then on Tuesday morning, a three-minute video clip appeared on dzwww.com apparently showing Chen wielding a stick with a knife attached to one end.

The website is the leading news website in Shandong, and is run by the provincial publicity department.

The video was provided by local police, and also showed two men in the cab of an excavator machine behind Chen.

One of the men in the cockpit, Guo Xiaogang, was the machine's operator and had been kept hostage for 22 hours by the time the video was shot, the police said in the clip.

"I gave you enough time to resort to reason and law, but what have you done during that time?" said Chen in the video.

"Now you are saying nice words to me, but it is too late. Do you really believe that wearing uniforms enables you to do whatever you want? I am practicing my legal right to defend myself. You only protect those who forcibly demolish our homes!"

Pingdu police said in a report on dzwww.com that Chen and his fellow villagers had poured several bottles of gasoline on Guo and threatened to set him on fire. Officers had to subdue Chen and the villagers after attempts at negotiations failed, the report said.

Chen and the villagers had been in a long dispute over land expropriation issues with local government stretching back several years, his wife, Li Xiaobo, told China Daily on Tuesday.

"Chen doesn't agree that his family's house should be demolished to make way for commercial development because the heads of the Jingouzi village committee failed to produce any official document proving they are authorised to expropriate our land and make us move," she said.

Li Huiqing, a lawyer from Beijing Huayi Law Firm, who represents Chen, said: "The house of one of the villagers (who was with Chen) was demolished without his consent on July 4. So Chen and the others were convinced that the excavator had come to the village on Friday to destroy their houses."

After taking control of Guo, they called the police several times, saying they had caught a man who wanted to damage their properties. However, the police officers that came to the scene did not take any action and left the scene, leaving Guo overnight, according to Li.

Another lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang from Huayi, said that based on this fact, it seemed Chen had been framed by local authorities.

Li also said that Guo had been treated well and was not harmed in the incident. He said that Chen had recorded a statement from Guo on his cellphone to the effect that he had not been harmed and was staying with Chen of his own will

"However, the cellphone is in the police's hands and I have not yet verified the recording," Li said.

Authorities in Pingdu could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

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