The Beijing Winter Olympics are officially underway—but, before the Opening Ceremony even finished on Friday, Chinese authorities proved to the world once again that it won’t tolerate any kind of free press.
In an extraordinary clip from Dutch broadcaster NOS, one of its reporters who is in Beijing to cover the Games can be seen being manhandled by a security guard sporting a red armband. The reporter, Sjoerd den Daas, attempted to carry on his broadcast while being grabbed and yelled at by the guard, then NOS decided to cut away back to the studio.
In a post, NOS wrote: “Our correspondent [den Daas] was pulled away from the camera by security guards at 12:00 pm live in the NOS Journaal. Unfortunately, this is increasingly becoming a daily reality for journalists in China. He is fine and was able to finish his story a few minutes later.”
Onze correspondent @sjoerddendaas werd om 12.00u live in het NOS Journaal door beveiligers voor de camera weggetrokken. Helaas is dit steeds vaker de dagelijkse realiteit voor journalisten in China. Hij is in orde en kon zijn verhaal gelukkig een paar minuten later afmaken pic.twitter.com/GLTZRlZV96
— NOS (@NOS) February 4, 2022
It’s unclear exactly what den Daas did to upset the authorities, but it may have been that he was reporting from a dark street corner rather than from inside the glitzy Bird’s Nest stadium, where the Chinese government was staging an opening ceremony to show off China to the world.
The Dutch tabloid Algemeen Dagblad quoted NOS editor-in-chief Marcel Gelauff as saying the clip was “a painful illustration” of how foreign press is treated in China. “Sjoerd has often told and shown that it is difficult as a journalist in China. There is a far-reaching tendency to curtail freedoms, and this may be even stronger because of corona,” said Gelauff.
Reporters in Beijing have been subjected to strict pandemic protocols before and during their time in the city, including the mandatory use of a health-monitoring app and daily PCR tests. Some foreign journalists have been told to leave their cell phones at home and use burners to stop Chinese spooks from tracking their activities.
A report from the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China released last month found foreign journalists have faced increasing intimidation in the country in recent years, with tactics including social media trolling, assaults, account hacking, visa denials, and vexatious lawsuits.
Inside the stadium, the was even more controversy during the opening ceremony when Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to shut his eyes when the team from Ukraine was parading around the track.
Putin has stationed around 100,000 troops at the Ukrainian border, and would have surely been aware that the cameras would most likely turn to him as the Ukraine team entered the stadium.
Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping received a one-minute standing ovation when he arrived to watch the festivities. Earlier in the day, Putin and Xi co-signed a statement that warned the West to stay away from Ukraine as NATO allies bolster their defenses in Eastern Europe.
BBC News reported that the team representing Russia—named the Russian Olympic Committee due to the ban on Russia fielding its national team because of persistent drug cheating—had “the loudest cheer so far” when it entered the stadium.