Journalist held for two hours at border and banned from country
Laurence Coates, a Sweden-based journalist and socialist activist, was turned back at the Chinese border in Shenzhen and refused entry as a “potential threat to national security”.
Coates, who under the pen name Vincent Kolo, has written several books on labour struggles and politics in China, was travelling on a valid dual-entry visa and last visited the mainland successfully for a holiday in Guangxi in June 2009.
Today (16 October) Coates was held at the border crossing between Hong Kong (Lo Wu) and Shenzhen for two hours and then escorted back to the Hong Kong side by passport police who told him his visa was revoked on the grounds that he was “a potential threat to the security of the country”.
“This accusation is absurd,” he told chinaworker.info, the website to which he is a frequent contributor. “I can only interpret this decision as punishment by the Chinese state for my journalistic activity, the slant of which is unashamedly pro-worker and pro-poor and critical of the one-party state,” he said. “I was on my way to Shenzhen. When I was stopped, I offered the guards to search my bags which they did not want to do”.
This year, Kolo (Coates) co-authored a book on the Beijing massacre 20 years ago, entitled Tiananmen, ‘Seven Weeks That Shook the World’. The book, published in Hong Kong in May, has been banned by the Chinese authorities. In contrast to many other books that appeared this year to mark this highly emotive 20th anniversary, Kolo and his co-authors stress the role of the working class of Beijing and China, not just the students, in the dramatic events that almost toppled the Communist Party. The website chinaworker.info, which is connected to the international socialist organisation, Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), campaigns for independent trade unions and democratic rights in China.
“We put forward the view that democratic change must come from below in China, from the super-exploited workers, migrants and rural masses, who are all paying a heavy price for today’s pro-corporate and neo-liberal policies,” Coates explained. “We also make clear that these issues are not unique to China, but are global problems for which solidarity is needed by ordinary working people regardless of nationality.”
He said that the decision to refuse him entry was a further sign the Chinese regime is becoming more authoritarian and afraid of criticism rather than opening up. “The decision to bar me will not silence chinaworker.info any more than the government’s block on our website has done – as Victor Hugo said, you cannot stop an idea whose time has come,” declared Coates.
The blocking of Coates was the second case of a journalist based in Sweden being refused to enter China. This will lead to protests.
Leung Kwok-hung (‘Longhair’), who is a socialist member of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council and well-known activist, told chinaworker.info: “These latest cases show that the Chinese regime is increasing its control and at the same time the Hong Kong government is assisting them in this task. No foreign government is standing against the regime, so the protest most come from the people”.
Visit the Chinaworker website here