Report: Chinese Urged to ‘Call Police’ on Foreign Journalists Covering Floods

This photo taken on July 12, 2021 shows village officials evacuating residents from a flooded area following heavy rains in Dazhou in China's southwestern Sichuan province. - China OUT (Photo by STR / AFP) / China OUT (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)
STR/AFP via Getty Images

Chinese citizens reportedly harassed foreign journalists on the streets of Zhengzhou over the weekend while covering the central Chinese city’s recent flooding, the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) reported Monday.

Some Zhengzhou residents encouraged fellow inhabitants of the city to “call the police immediately” on Saturday if they spotted a BBC reporter named Robin Brant on Zhengzhou’s streets. Chinese netizens have allegedly used the country’s heavily censored microblogging platform Weibo in recent days to criticize “the BBC’s China Correspondent Robin Brant for a report that questioned [Chinese] government policies after a dozen people died in a train carriage amid the flooding [in Zhengzhou],” according to HKFP.

Some Weibo users have allegedly accused Brant of “being a ‘rumour-mongering foreigner’ and ‘seriously distorting the facts’ in his reports on the flooding,” the news site relayed.

“BBC reporter Robin Brant has appeared in disaster-stricken areas of our city many times, and has seriously distorted the facts. If you find this person, please call the police immediately,” a Weibo post from an unidentified user on July 24 allegedly read.

Zhengzhou suffered record-breaking floods from July 17-July 20. The metropolis recorded its highest-ever daily rainfall on July 20, “receiving the equivalent of eight months of rain in a single day,” according to the United Nations. Zhengzhou’s torrential rainfall was part of a storm system that caused devasting floods across China’s Henan province, of which Zhengzhou is the capital. The storm system continues to move across Henan and has reportedly killed at least 69 people province-wide as of July 26, according to China’s ruling Communist Party. The true death toll from Henan’s “once in a thousand years” flood is likely much higher than official government estimates, as Zhengzhou alone is home to 12.5 million people.

Other foreign journalists besides BBC correspondent Brant have also met resistance from Zhenghzou’s residents while attempting to cover the aftermath of the city’s devastating floods, HKFP reported on July 26.

“Beijing Bureau chief for the LA Times Alice Su and [German public broadcaster] Deutsche Welle’s China correspondent Mathias Boelinger were surrounded by an angry crowd who mistakenly believed Boelinger to be Brant,” the news site relayed, adding that the confrontation occurred on the streets of Zhengzhou on July 25.

“They kept pushing me yelling that I was a bad guy and that I should stop smearing China. One guy [tried] to snatch my phone,” Boelinger wrote in a Twitter post following the altercation.

“You should have a positive view on China!” one man yelled at Boelinger, according to video footage of the incident circulating on Weibo.

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