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BBC World News is first foreign media to record Chinese military challenging a civilian aircraft

MUMBAI: BBC News correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes has become the first journalist to take a civilian aircraft close enough to the artificial islands being created by the Chinese to film the carefully guarded construction taking place in the Spratly Islands.

Building work in the South China Sea started in 2014 and this film offers an uncensored and close-up view of how far construction has progressed since then. It follows on from Rupert’s exclusive report last year, when he became the first Western journalist to document Chinese island building on camera from a fishing boat.

The new, detailed video for BBC World News and BBC.com – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35031313 – offers a world exclusive of the construction currently happening at Mischief Reef, just 140 nautical miles from the Philippines, and includes clear images of a runway being constructed on the islands.

Rupert and the team also obtained footage of Chinese poachers on a Philippine-controlled reef, poaching endangered giant clams, and underwater footage showing the destruction of the reef and the excavation of these endangered creatures.

The report makes the BBC the first foreign media to record the Chinese military challenging a civilian aircraft flying in international airspace. The military are heard refusing to acknowledge them as civilian and continuing to threaten the crew.

It also shows an Australian Air Force plane on a ‘freedom of navigation flight’ over the South China Sea at same time.