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2018-11-20 12:31:49

A municipal police bureau in eastern China suspended an officer and apologized on Tuesday following claims of official misconduct from an environmental reporter covering a local chemical spill.

The Public Security Bureau of Quanzhou issued a statement confirming an incident reported by journalist Zhou Chen in which four men in police uniforms barged into her hotel room, and has suspended one officer pending further investigation.

In an article in Caixin Weekly — a publication under financial news outlet Caixin — Zhou wrote on Monday that the men had entered the room unannounced on Nov. 11 while she was staying in the coastal city of Quanzhou in Fujian province.

“At around 11:30 p.m., I was in bed playing with my phone when I heard the sound of a keycard being swiped, and then someone walked in. All of a sudden, four men in police uniforms were standing in front of my bed,” Zhou wrote. She said one of the men told her that they were from a police station and would like to check her ID.

But the men did not provide any official documentation for their visit or otherwise prove their identities, Zhou said, and three of their uniforms indicated that they were auxiliary police officers — those who are temporarily contracted rather than employed by a station full-time. Before leaving, the men performed what they called a “routine check” of her room, but a hotel employee later told the journalist that the men did not check the rooms of any other hotel guests.

Zhou had traveled to Quanzhou to report on a recent chemical spill in the city. On Nov. 4, nearly 7 tons of a petroleum derivative known as C9 fraction leaked out of a transporting hose at a harbor in Quangang District. Fishers living nearby claimed to have lost millions of yuan due to the leak, and 52 residents were hospitalized. In the days following the spill, however, the district government insisted that the area’s environment was safe for both people and fish, prompting public criticism over the lack of transparency.

Zhou also wrote that she was followed for the entirety of Nov. 11 by people she had seen at a government event earlier that day, and that she had spoken on the phone with a publicity official for the city at some point before the incident in her room. “He told me that the head of the district’s publicity office was in my hotel and wanted to have a chat with me,” wrote Zhou. “But I declined, saying I had other things to deal with.”

In its statement Tuesday, Quangang District municipal police apologized for the incident. “The actions of the officers from Quangang District were imprudent and improper, causing a negative impact on society,” the statement said.

On Tuesday, Sixth Tone contacted Zhou, Caixin, Quangang’s district police bureau, and Quangang’s publicity office. Zhou declined an interview request — citing her employer’s standard policy — and Caixin could not be reached for comment by time of publication. A district police bureau publicity official surnamed Zhuang told Sixth Tone that the case is pending further investigation, while a district government publicity official said it is currently unclear whether the officers’ actions had any connection to the publicity office.

Editor: Layne Flower.

(Header image: An overhead photo shows aquaculture ponds after nearly 7 tons of a leaked chemical dissolved fish traps in Quanzhou, Fujian province, Nov. 9, 2018. Zhou Chen/Caixin/VCG)