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- A campaigner from Sichuan was paralyzed from the waist down in 2006 when thugs he says were linked to local officials beat him up after he spoke to German journalists.
- In 2007 farmer Yu Changwu from Heilongjiang Province in northeastern China was sentenced to two years of re-education through labor for speaking to foreign journalists about his campaign to recover and privatize farmland seized by the government. The charge was the government’s catchall “endangering state security.”
- Uighurs and Tibetans in particular have been detained — and in the case of one group sentenced to death — after expressing separatist sentiments.
Sources can be fearful, sometimes just because of living in a repressive society but sometimes with reason. Make sure people you speak to are fully informed about what you are doing. If they are not in a position to understand the risks they run, use your judgment to get the story out in a way that will not jeopardize anyone – weigh up editors’ demands for full names etc. with potential repercussions for the people you are quoting.
This is particularly the case with people from rural areas, with limited education, or in sensitive regions like Tibet where foreign media are rare and foreign reporters are even more heavily managed than in the rest of China.