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CNN crew released by Chinese

A hands reaches out to block CNN's camera on Hainan Island  

HAIKOU, China (CNN) -- The CNN correspondent and camera crew that broadcast the only live pictures of the departure of the chartered jet carrying the released U.S. crew of a Navy spy plane was detained for almost four hours Thursday by Chinese police.

"CNN is proud of its people and they were doing the right thing in providing coverage of the departure of the freed U.S. flight crew," said Eason Jordan, CNN chief news executive.

Correspondent Lisa Rose Weaver, the camera crew and two local drivers were taken into custody as they broadcast live from a hill overlooking the airport soon after the chartered Continental jet left at 7:30 a.m. Thursday.


CNN's Lisa Rose Weaver and camera crew are detained by police

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That plane was carrying the 21 men and three women who had been detained by China for 11 days after their U.S. Navy surveillance plane and a Chinese fighter jet collided. They were forced to make an emergency landing on the Chinese island.

CNN used a video phone to transmit the live images of the crew boarding the chartered jet and then its departure. A video phone is a high-tech gadget that is hooked up to a camera and a satellite phone, which in turn beams the video and audio to a receiver unit for broadcast.

Moments after the plane departed the civilian airport, uniformed police and plain-clothed security officers approached the CNN crew as Weaver was giving a live report. The cameraman turned and showed police calmly questioning the drivers.

Weaver said the crew did not file an application to film in that location because they didn't know where they would specifically broadcast from at the airport.

It is standard procedure in China for camera crews to ask for permission to film. She said other international broadcasters were in the same area.

As she spoke, one of the officers came toward the camera and covered it with his hand, ending the broadcast.

Weaver spoke on CNN a few moments later from a cell phone, reassuring viewers and CNN staff that all was well. She theorized that local residents had tipped police to their presence.

The correspondent said despite the situation at the airport, China had been remarkably lenient with international journalists covering the detainment of the U.S. crew.

"It's amazing how much freedom we have had in the course of the last several days, in reporting this story and bringing live pictures to viewers, it's probably fair to say (it's) unprecedented for China reporting, as spontaneous as it was," Weaver said by phone. "Many people (journalists) were coming to Hainan without first telling authorities. In that sense we were granted a lot of freedom."

In another phone interview moments later with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Weaver and her crew were in their car with a police officer, who was directing the driver to take them to the public security bureau at Hainan's civilian airport.

Weaver stressed that such encounters with police were not uncommon for international and Chinese journalists alike.

After being questioned by police, Weaver and the crew were let go.

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Navy Fact File: EP-3E ORION (ARIES II) Aircraft
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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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