Sky bests Chinese censors to break 'land theft' scoop

Sky News has broadcast an exclusive report by its Beijing correspondent, Dominic Waghorn, exposing China’s ruling elite seizing land and homes from people in order to make profits in collusion with developers.

To evade China’s media censors, Waghorn and his crew filmed over several months, choosing their moments to avoid police interference.

Despite this, they were detained a number of times.

Here Waghorn describes what he came across: "We had barely got out of our taxi when we were mobbed.

People crowded in on us shoving photographs and leaflets at us, all shouting to be heard. We had come to a Beijing slum, where victims of official corruption and police brutality come from across China to try and find justice in the country’s capital.

"One well-dressed woman told me her son had been killed by police in detention, another man said six friends had disappeared in jail. They call the slum the protestors’ village. Usually foreign news teams don’t venture here.

With the danger of being detained, we had decided to risk it.

"In a demolition site in Beijing’s neighbouring city of Tianjin, a couple have lived in a tent in sub-zero temperatures all winter after the government demolished their home to profit from developing the site. The same thing is happening to millions of people here, but this couple have decided not to give in.

"When we went to visit Wan Baolong and his wife, the police had been listening to our contact’s mobile phone, so they were waiting for us.

They detained us on the spot outside Wan’s tent. Chinese people are wary of their police for good reason, but Wan Baolong ran out of fearful respect a long time ago. He harangued the police relentlessly until they grew more nervous and let us leave.

"I do not speak much of his language, but Wan is one of the most impressive people I have ever met. He is driven by a burning anger, a quiet, articulate, but impotent fury, and told us he was quite happy to die before giving in to such injustice. I have no doubt he meant it.

"‘There’s nothing we can do,’ he said. ‘Nothing. We went to the Chinese media, but they’re too scared to report it.’

"Back in the protestors’ village, our camera caught sight of a man, covered in the self-inflicted burns of previous protests. He held up a banner that read "Human rights are more important than living". If enough people lose enough to agree with him here, China’s government has a big problem.

"More and more protests are happening, but it is impossible to say how organised the unrest is becoming.

For now, the government’s response is to tighten the lid on a pressure cooker of discontent, stifle dissent, and crush any protest, but the more that goes on, the more unpredictable the consequences."

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