, LONDON, Mar 15 – A journalist and his camera operator were detained in Tiananmen Square live on British television on Friday, in what he described as a surreal but telling episode about reporting in China.
Viewers of the 24-hour British channel Sky News were treated to the bizarre sight of reporter Mark Stone being directed into a police van live from Beijing.
He reported live from inside the van, admitting that the Chinese officials with him – one them filming Stone herself – probably did not realise he was speaking directly to London.
“Still in the police van, should be leaving in just a second for this rather surreal experience, which gives you a little insight into what can happen sometimes” in China, Stone said.
The team were then taken into a room where they were told to await questioning.
“We were here in Tiananmen Square filming, doing lives (live reports) through the day, now they’ve stopped us because of one word. We were talking about the 1989 protest, they didn’t like that,” Stone said.
The square is a popular tourist site near the regime’s nerve centre and the scene of 1989 democracy protests that were crushed by the Chinese authorities.
A police officer was filmed asking the Sky team to switch off their camera, saying they were now inside the Forbidden City and did not have permission to film there.
Stone, who was in Beijing reporting on China’s leadership transition, said the police had been “utterly civil” throughout the incident.
While they had permission to film in the square, Stone said police told him the team were not displaying their passes correctly, and noted he was not carrying his passport as required.
China’s foreign ministry insists that press censorship does not exist in the country, but journalists report the constant threat of interference from government officials.