China refuses visas and harasses two US journalists sympathetic to Quake victims

Reporters Without Borders, 4 September 2009 -

Reporters Without Borders deplores the Chinese government’s refusal to issue visas to two US filmmakers, Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill, thereby preventing them from attending yesterday’s screening of their documentary about the May 2008 Sichuan earthquake, “China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province” at the Beijing Independent Film Festival.

The film examines the collapse of many schools in the earthquake and the difficulties encountered by the families of the victims in addressing their complaints to the government.

“Their kids had been buried when the school collapsed,” Alpert said in a recent interview, explaining a scene in the documentary (). “In their town, almost all the other buildings remained standing (…) And the parents began asking why the school collapsed. Was it a shoddy construction, was it corruption? And nobody gave them any answer. They started to get angry and started marching.”

Reporters Without Borders said: “While screening the documentary at a Beijing festival is laudable, denying visas to its two American makers is absurd. It is linked to the growing difficulties for foreign journalists and Chinese human rights activists to work in the areas affected by the earthquake. The openness displayed at the time of the quake is now unfortunately over.”

Officials at the Chinese consulate in New York offered Alpert and O’Neill no explanation for the refusal to give them visas late last week but it was almost certainly linked to their film about the aftermath of the earthquake that devastated the southwestern province of Sichuan on 12 May 2008 and their work with its victims……. (more details from Reporters Without Borders)