A group of BBC journalists was attacked while reporting in China’s central Hunan Province on Friday. The camera crew was stopped from interviewing a woman whose father was killed, allegedly during a land dispute with the Communist government.

The journalists were assaulted and their cameras were destroyed by locals, who had the support of the administration. They were also forced to sign a confession letter stating that they were trying to conduct an “illegal interview” and apologised for “behaviour causing a bad impact”. “It was a very one-sided negotiation, but it at least gave us a way out – a luxury denied to the petitioners who find themselves on the receiving end of similar intimidation and abuse,” John Sudworth, one of the journalists. wrote in a report about the incident.

The woman, Yang Linghua, is a “petitioner” who was scheduled to travel to Beijing to petition for justice in her case at the State Bureau of Letters and Calls. She was reportedly put under house arrest to stop her from travelling to Beijing because China begins its annual parliamentary session, The National People’s Congress, on Sunday.

Sudworth wrote that it is a known and rampant practice where “petitioners”, who wait for occasions like these to demand justice after being failed by the local administration, are discouraged by force to travel to the Capital. People who have petitioned in the past have often been put under house arrest.