Los Angeles Times reporter arrested in Inner Mongolia

According to the US newspaper, the reporter was mistreated before her expulsion from the region. She was investigating recent protests against restrictions on Mongolian language teaching in local schools. China is increasingly targeting foreign journalists. For analysts, this is a response to restrictions imposed by Washington on Chinese media in the US.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – A reporter with the Los Angeles Times was detained and then expelled from Inner Mongolia whilst covering the protests that are shaking the northern Chinese region, the US newspaper reported yesterday on its website.

The journalist was stopped near a school in Hohhot where she was gathering information about recent class boycotts by ethnic Mongolian students who have turned against the authorities for limiting the use of their native language in school curricula.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the reporter was interrogated at a police station, grabbed by the throat and pushed into a cell and held for more than four hours before being forced to leave the northern Chinese region. She was not allowed to call the US embassy.

Foreign journalists, or journalists who work for foreign media, seem to have become a target for Chinese authorities. On 14 August, Chinese police arrested Cheng Lei, an Australian journalist who works for the Chinese state television CGTN.

Cheng is now "under surveillance in a designated residence". Under Chinese law, a suspect can be held in custody for up to six months without a formal charge and without the possibility of meeting a lawyer.

In January 2019, Yang Hengjun, another Australian reporter of Chinese origin, was detained on charges of espionage.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based organisation that promotes press freedom, China is the country that detains the most journalists in the world.

For several observers, the arrest of the Los Angeles Times reporter is China’s response to the US decision to treat some Chinese media operating in the United States as foreign diplomatic missions.

Beijing has already reacted to the Trump administration's move by expelling journalists working for three major US newspapers.

Some analysts also believe that the Chinese government is using the arrests of foreign citizens in China as a form of blackmail, to extort concessions in bilateral disputes with the arrested person's country.

This is what Beijing is doing to obtain the release of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei and daughter of Ren Zhengfei, founder of the Chinese telecommunications giant.

She was arrested in Canada in December 2018 at the request of the US. China followed suit by arresting and jailing two Canadian citizens, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.