British journalist 'forcibly restrained' during protest

Saturday 22 October 2011 23:27

A British TV journalist described today how he was "forcibly restrained" and dragged across a street as Chinese police stopped him reporting on a pro-Tibet protest in Beijing.

John Ray, of ITV News, said he was left with cuts and bruises after being "slung" in the back of a police van by officers arresting activists from Students for a Free Tibet.

Mr Ray was taken away by officers as members of the campaign group handcuffed themselves to each other at the Chinese Ethnic Culture Park, near the National Stadium in Beijing.

The reporter, who became ITV News' China correspondent in 2006, said: "I was held in a restaurant and physically and forcibly restrained there.

"I tried to explain to these people that I was a journalist but they dragged me out and slung me in in the back of a police van and held me there for another few minutes.

"Nobody punched me but they were very forceful and I have a cut knee and a bruise on my finger.

"They basically dragged me into the restaurant and then out, and took my shoes off me."

Mr Ray was only released from the Chinese police van after his producer showed them accreditation.

He added: "I was able to eventually show them my journalist credentials and they realised I was a British journalist and the next time the door of the van opened I was able to walk out.

"They did ask me, in English, what my views were on Tibet and I said 'I don't have any views, I'm a journalist'.

"I was there purely to report on a protest and took no part in the protest itself.

"We then contacted the British Embassy and they are taking it up at consular level."

A spokesman at the British embassy said: "We are aware of the incident and have spoken directly to John Ray.

"We have expressed our strong concern to the Chinese authorities and we are pleased that he has been released."

Mr Ray previously worked as ITV News' UK editor and was best-known for his coverage of the 7/7 terror attacks and Northern Ireland.

He joined ITN in July 2000 from Sky News, where he was a political correspondent, after starting his career in print journalism working on the Warrington Guardian and then the Western Morning News.

Eight members of the campaign group were arrested after two of them hung a Free Tibet banner near the gates of the park.

The incident is the second time Students for a Free Tibet have grabbed international headlines for their exploits during the Olympics.

Britons Lucy Fairbrother, 23, and Iain Thom, 24, were deported after unfurling a 140 sq ft banner reading "One World, One Dream, Free Tibet" in Beijing before the games started.

ITN said it would be making the "strongest possible" protest.

An ITN spokesman said: "John Ray is a fully accredited China correspondent who was doing his legitimate job as a journalist.

"We intend to protest in the strongest possible terms to the Chinese authorities and seek assurances that the treatment meted out to Mr Ray will not be repeated."

The International Olympic Committee said it was investigating.

A spokesman said: "The IOC has learned through media reports that a British journalist was allegedly assaulted today while covering a demonstration near an Olympic venue in Beijing.

"The IOC's position is clear: the media must be free to report on the Olympic Games.

"We are endeavouring to discover the full facts of this incident and, if necessary, will raise our concerns with the appropriate authority."

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