A human rights group in China has reported that a Chinese environmental activist was brutally beaten up after giving an interview to German public broadcaster ARD.
Over one million people were relocated because of the Three Gorges Dam
According to the group Human Rights in China, Fu Xiancai, a farmer and environmental activist gave an interview to German television on May 19 about construction work on the Three Gorges Dam, in which he commented on Beijing's failure to compensate 1.3 million people forced to relocate after the project began in 1997.
Three weeks later, he was visited by police in the Zigui region in Hubei province and questioned about his statements to German television. On his way home, he was attacked by unknown assailants. Since then, he has been under 24-hour police observation in hospital and is believed to be paralyzed from the neck down.
"Police are doing everything they can to keep him in isolation," German correspondent Jochen Graebert, who conducted the interview, told ARD's main news program, "Tagesschau." "Allegedly his condition is critical, and he can barely speak."
According to Graebert, the Chinese foreign ministry is refusing to give details on the case.
"A spokesman stressed that China has its own laws," he said. "He said that Chinese citizens enjoy human rights and freedom but citizens have to stick to the rules."
"No o n e helped me"
China has a bad human rights record
Jobst Plog, the director general of public broadcaster NDR, which belongs -- like Deutsche Welle -- to the ARD network, sent a letter to the Chinese embassy in Berlin confirming that his staff were being denied contact to Fu and his family.
In the interview, Fu had said that that like many others from the Yangtze River region, he had failed to receive the compensation he had been promised after relocating. He explained that he had visited Beijing 15 times to submit a complaint.
"No one helped me," he said. "On the contrary, I was threatened and beaten."
This wasn't the first time Fu had felt the wrath of the authorities. In April 2005 he was beaten up after talking to a US newspaper, and one month later his son received a murder threat.
Retributio n a n d risk
Plog is in no doubt about what happened.
"The attack was an act of revenge for Fu's statements to German television," he said, guessing that Fu was slandered by his local authorities as a traitor for having spoken to foreign media.
China is skeptical of foreign media
Plog has called on the Chinese ambassador to exert influence and ensure "that Chinese citizens do not have to fear for their lives just because they express an objective opinion on German television."
The international media is well aware how much interview partners in China stand to lose.
"We don't talk to everyone, because sometimes we feel the risk for our interview partners is too great," Graebert said. "We check very carefully to see how serious their interest is. Fu Xiancai was very keen on going public. He had spoken to the local press many times and he was known to the authorities. We thought his high profile would serve as some form of protection. But this was not the case."
"We will do everything we can help to help this man," he added. "We won't abandon him."