BEIJING, JUNE 5 -- The government warned foreign correspondents today to cease "illegal" news coverage after journalists reported two nights of protests by Beijing University students.
Several foreign journalists have been beaten, kicked, harassed and dispersed at gunpoint by police while attempting to cover the campus protests and activities around Tiananmen Square in the heart of the city. The anti-government protests were held to commemorate the anniversary of the army's crackdown on last year's student-led democracy movement.
The Foreign Correspondents Club of Beijing lodged a formal protest with the government today, objecting to "the unprovoked use of violence and physical abuse" of foreign journalists by paramilitary and plainclothes security police.
"It appears to us that these actions are an attempt to intimidate members of the foreign press and prevent us from carrying out legitimate reporting activities in China," said the correspondents' letter of protest.
Jim Munson, president of the Correspondents Club and a reporter for Canadian television, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry today before the protest could be delivered. A Foreign Ministry official told Munson that "the so-called protest . . . is utterly unreasonable" and that Munson would be held responsible for its consequences.
The official charged that certain unnamed journalists had been violating city government regulations by entering campuses without making formal applications to do so. He said that "a small number" of foreign journalists had connections with Chinese who were engaged in illegal activities and "even colluded with them."
Munson said he told the official that the Correspondents Club was protesting the physical abuse and detention of journalists who were "conducting legitimate work on the streets of Beijing."
Munson also told the official that he had been chased by paramilitary policemen at gunpoint down a street outside the Beijing University campus Monday night.
The Correspondents Club letter cited five cases of rough treatment of foreign journalists:
Armed paramilitary police struck Los Angeles Times correspondent David Holley and beat his wife, Fumiyo, with rifle butts Monday outside the Beijing University campus.
Plainclothesmen kicked Reuter photographer Richard Ellis in the head and smashed his camera Sunday.
A policeman severely beat West German television correspondent Gisela Mahlmann-Hermann of ZDF with a truncheon Sunday while attempting to seize her video camera.
ABC correspondents Todd Carrel and Masaaki Serita-Ogushi were assaulted Monday outside Beijing University and detained at a police station.
CBS cameraman Bradley Simpson was physically mistreated Sunday.