Shaanxi police have made six arrests after a reporter for a local TV station was beaten up by staff at a public hospital where he was conducting an investigation.

The Shaanxi Broadcasting Corporation reporter, who was only identified by local media with the surname Wang, was attacked on Monday when he arrived at the Zhouzhi People’s Hospital to conduct interviews.

Wang was investigating the high premiums the hospital charged for storing the body of a woman who died after giving birth to her son two years ago.

zhouzhi people's hospital
The Zhouzhi People’s Hospital. Photo: Ding’an Xiaofang.

A court ordered the hospital to pay her family around RMB500,000 (HK$590,695) in July for improper care. After receiving the payment, the woman’s family tried to take her body away for burial, only to be told that they must pay about RMB100,000 (HK$118,000) in storage costs to the hospital – or RMB150 per day.

According to the broadcaster, the head of the hospital told around ten personnel wearing security uniforms to punch and kick Wang when he asked the hospital to confirm facts in his story. He was then taken into a security room, where the alleged beating continued, this time with wooden batons on his head, chest, back, and legs.

They then locked Wang in the mortuary for about 15 minutes, saying: “Don’t you want to investigate the morgue? We’ll let you stay in there then!”

Adding insult to injury, the hospital personnel then reportedly gave him RMB2,000 (HK$2,363) and told him to smile for their mobile phone cameras or suffer another beating.

zhouzhi hospital reporter
Photo: Screenshot/The Paper.

Wang told The Paper about his injuries: “Closed frontal head injury, this is the preliminary diagnosis result. And there are multiple bruises on my body, and also soft tissue damage.”

The government in Zhouzhi county stepped in following the incident, and issued a formal apology to Wang.

It told the broadcaster that the local police had detained six people, and had suspended the head of the hospital for investigation. It added that it had fired the hospital’s security chief and vice-president.

High mortuary costs in public hospitals have previously been met with public outrage in China. Earlier this year, authorities cracked down on a hospital in Hainan province after local media reported that a woman was charged RMB34,000 (HK$40,157) to store her brother’s body for 13 days.

Government authorities said that the hospital had outsourced its morgue to a private company to operate without official authorisation, and was misusing public resources and its administrative monopoly power for profit.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.