A Chinese reporter was beaten to death by unknown assailants while conducting interviews in the heartland of the country’s crime and accident-ridden coal industry, his newspaper said Tuesday.
Lan Chengzhang had been hired by the China Trade News on Dec. 27 and died on Jan. 10, one day after the assault, said Wang Jianfeng, a manager at the News.
Wang said Lan was attacked while interviewing people for an assignment at a coal mine in Shanxi, a northern province that is a center of the country’s notoriously dangerous and corrupt mining industry.
Wang declined to discuss details of the case, referring questions to the provincial police and government.
“We are going to seek justice for him, regardless of how long he worked for the newspaper,” Wang said.
An officer who answered the phone at the provincial police’s news and information department said Lan’s death was being investigated, but said Lan had not been considered a journalist by authorities.
“This is a simple criminal case and we are now hunting the killers,” said the officer, who refused to give his name as is common among government employees.
The man said no suspects had been arrested. Calls to provincial government spokesmen rang unanswered.
China’s mines are the world’s deadliest, with floods, fires, explosions and other mishaps killing 4,746 people last year.
Mine owners and managers are accused of ignoring safety rules in order to speed up production, and of covering up accidents after they happen.
Most miners are landless farmers with little training and are easily intimidated by mine owners who frequently employ gangs of armed thugs and have strong ties to local government officials.