Quanzhou, Fujian province, where the chemical spill occurred.
During a trip to cover a recent petrochemical spill in Fujian province, Caixin reporter Zhou Chen was followed by local officials and had four police officers burst into her hotel room just before she was about to fall asleep.
Zhou isn’t the only reporter to have been shadowed and harassed by local governments in China. It’s now “normal” for journalists to have “company” on reporting trips, Liang Yingfei, another reporter for Caixin writes (link in Chinese):
“Once, when I was out interviewing a source in Changbai, Jilin province, staff at my hotel told me to return immediately to the hotel because there was a leak in my room. When I got there, I found local government officials waiting for me in the lobby.”
Another time, Liang was in Jiangxi reporting on local funeral reforms that had resulted in thousands of coffins being destroyed, with some elderly people committing suicide because they wanted to die before a ban on traditional funerals came into effect. “I interviewed some elderly residents in their homes. Afterwards, local officials followed me from the village back to the city, which was 30 kilometers away,” she wrote.
“One young man I spoke with in Jiangxi, whose father had recently died, became the subject of frequent questioning by local officials after he appeared in my story... He (later) messaged me on WeChat: ‘Do you have any idea how much trouble this has caused me?’ I didn’t know how to respond and could only try to console him by explaining that interviewing and being interviewed are not illegal things.”
The Quanzhou Public Security Bureau has since published an apology for what happened to Zhou.