Wed, Jan 17, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Journalist beaten to death while looking into Chinese mining

AFP , BEIJING

A Chinese journalist investigating the nation's dangerous coal mining industry was beaten to death in northern China, his paper said yesterday, amid reports a mine boss ordered the attack.

Lan Chengzhang (蘭成長), a journalist for the Beijing-based China Trade News, was beaten by unidentified assailants near a mine in Huiyuan County in Shanxi Province last Tuesday, officials from the paper said.

"Lan Chengzhang was a just-hired journalist who was still in a trial period," Wang Jianfeng (王劍鋒), head of the paper's news department, told reporters by phone.

"He was beaten to death by a group of mining thugs," Wang said.

The paper has sent a team to investigate the incident and laid complaints with the local police and government, he said.

"We will do everything we can to protect the rights of journalists," he said.

Wang declined to give any more details, saying: "At this time it is not appropriate to comment further."

But according to the Southern Daily newspaper, Lan died in a hospital in the neighboring city of Datong last Wednesday.

Several men with clubs beat Lan as a fellow reporter was being held at the office of an unnamed Huiyuan County mine boss, the paper said.

The paper said the surviving journalist, who with Lan had been sent to the area to investigate the local coal industry, had accused the Huiyuan mine boss of ordering the thugs to carry out the attack, it said.

Officials in Datong, which oversees Huiyuan County, were unavailable for comment when contacted by reporters.

But the paper said city officials had accused Lan of being a "fake journalist" who was out to extort officials in the local mining industry.

Shanxi is China's largest coal producing region and where a large portion of the nation's mining accidents take place.

China's rulers have previously acknowledged that the nation's coal mining industry is wracked by corruption, with local officials often colluding with mine owners so that safety standards are ignored and profits maximized.

A total of 4,746 people died working in China's coal mines last year -- a death toll of 13 a day, official figures show.

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