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German journalist arrested near 'cancer villages' in China

A Beijing-based correspondent for the respected German weekly newspaper Die Zeit was detained for five hours Friday near so-called cancer villages along a severely polluted river in central China.

Georg Blume said in a telephone interview from the hotel room where he was being held in Shenqiu, Henan province, and was accused of conducting 'illegal interviews'. He was cross-examined until he was requested to leave and 'not come back'.

At the time of his arrest by police, Blume was conducting research in one of the 20 villages that lie along the Shaying River where the cancer rates have been rising dramatically since the 1990s. Among the 2,400 residents of Huangmengying, for instance, more than 120 people have died of cancer.

'I was followed all morning by the police and had to therefore cancel all my interviews,' Blume said. The police then stopped his taxi at a highway toll booth and brought him to Shenqiu for questioning, he said.

The German embassy in Beijing was notified of his arrest.

Last month's spill in northeastern China that sent a 100-kilometre-long petrochemical slick into the Songhua River has cast a spotlight on the rising water pollution across China, and the fate of the 'cancer villages' has even been reported in the state-run media.

Village directors of Huangmengying have accused a paper factory and other industrial plants upstream of dumping untreated effluent into the river, the largest branch of the Huaihe River and the source of the water supply for Huangmengying and other villages.

The health department in Shenqiu has found high concentrations of manganese and nitrates in the groundwater of the villages. People living near ponds and streams fed by the Shaying River have been particularly affected, developing intestinal and esophageal cancers.

Blume reported that he had been treated 'politely'.

Date posted: December 9, 2005 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 1698