China: Journalists Dragged Away From Protest

A Sky News team were among journalists who were "violently" stopped from reporting on an environmental pollution protest in China.

Sky News cameraman Andy Portch was attacked by plain-clothed men as they tried to prevent him filming a protest over expansion plans for a petro-chemical plant in Ningbo, Zhejiang province.

Police sought to disperse hundreds of people outside the Ningbo city government offices, including an AFP journalist who was briefly detained by police.

Sky's Foreign Affairs Correspondent Lisa Holland was among a crowd when an official tried to stop her reporting on the demonstration.

Thousands marched through the city over the weekend, clashing with police at times - eventually forcing the government to halt the expansion plan on Sunday. But people still gathered outside government offices on Monday to ensure the politicians kept their word.

Holland said: "We were pushed and dragged down a flight of steps and our cameraman Andy Portch was kicked in the back of his calves as plain-clothed thugs tried to wrestle the camera from him."

He is heard on camera saying: "What are you doing? You can’t beat me up like this. Stop beating me up."

During the commotion, one protester shouted: "Don't hit them, don't beat them."

A man holding a baby told police not to threaten them, saying: "You are bullying the Chinese people. We have to rely on foreigners to come and help us."

The Sky team was then marched away by riot police to roars by the crowd and threatened with arrest before being bundled away in a taxi.

The crowd took pictures of the whole episode and uploaded them onto Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter.

People are using the powerful social media tool to highlight local disputes and controversial protests that never get reported by the state media.

Holland said: "As the authorities tried to prevent us filming the event - the crowds were taking pictures of the whole episode and busily uploading them onto Weibo - their version of Twitter.

"It's Twitter, but not as people know it outside China. That's because China’s population of 1.3 billion play a clever game of cat and mouse posting about the issues that matter to them, but not using specific words which will get their messages blanked out by the censors.

"The messages speak in riddles - a language of Weibo has developed as users read between the lines, but clearly understand each other.

"Through brute force the authorities tried to remove us from the story. But they just aren't quick enough to stop Weibo and its messages and images. It's a constant flow of information which is simply overloading the censors.

"China is moving into a power transition when it gets a new set of leaders in the next few weeks. Instability and unrest fills the ruling Communist Party with fear - and Weibo is fuelling that."