CHINA> Regional
Journalists welcomed in Urumqi
By Mu Qian (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-07-09 07:45

URUMQI: On Monday, Beijing-based journalist Henrik Bork was debating whether to find his own way to Xinjiang to cover the riot when he received an e-mail from the Chinese government.

The message, from the State Council Information Office, not only welcomed him to Urumqi, it listed phone numbers of people from the local information department he could contact.

He immediately went to the airport.

"I get a lot of invitations for press conferences from the Chinese authorities, but this is the first time for me to be invited on a reporting trip in such a timely fashion," says Bork, a correspondent for Germany's Suddeutsche Zeitung who has worked for more than eight years in China.

"Usually in such circumstances I would try to go by myself and see how far I can get, but this time I am positively surprised that we can get some help from the authorities," he said.

According to Wu Nong, an official with the Information Office of the Xinjiang regional government, some 150 reporters from more than 80 media organizations had arrived in Urumqi by Tuesday to cover the riots.

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A press center has been set up at the Hoi Tak Hotel in downtown Urumqi, where most of the journalists are staying. The press center is also one of the places providing Internet service in the city, as the government has shut down the Web to prevent rioters from organizing online.

"The world is interested in China, and given the scale of violence and the number of casualties, this is a very big story for us and everyone else," Bork said.

An American journalist, who wished to keep himself and his organization anonymous, said that compared with the riots in Lhasa last March, foreign media have more access this time in Urumqi.

"For Lhasa we were not allowed to go there but could only do reporting from afar. This time the Chinese authorities are prompt in giving access to the media and giving press conferences," he said.