BEIJING – A German reporter investigating a case of five children killed by carbon monoxide poisoning in southwest China said Monday his computer and smart phone were sabotaged after his hotel room was broken into.
Bernhard Zand, reporter for German weekly Der Spiegel, was investigating the accidental deaths in November of five street boys in Bijie, Guizhou province, in a case that had cast a negative light on the country’s social safety net.
In the course of his reporting Zand interviewed the Chinese journalist that broke the story, and who had been subsequently detained for several weeks, and spoke with relatives of the dead children.
However while in Bijie, Zand reported he and his Chinese assistant were constantly followed by unidentified men.
After returning to their hotel one evening last week in the provincial capital Guiyang, the pair found multiple files had been deleted from their laptops, and Zand’s computer tablet and iPhone had been destroyed.
“It was a pre-meditated break-in,” Zand told AFP, adding a memory card containing photos files had also been completely deleted.
Zand filed a complaint with local police and Der Spiegel has called on Swiss hotel group Kempinski seeking information on the break-in at the hotel.
In light of Zand’s report, the Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC) recommended journalists working in Guizhou take special precautions to protect themselves and their equipment.
In a visit to Beijing in August German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged great protection for press freedom in China.
Ahead of her visit, German journalists working in China had called on Merkel to discuss the issue with Beijing, alleging authorities had been threatening to not renew media visas and intimidating their local assistants.