Biden criticises Beijing's treatment of US journalists

Journalists tell Biden of their concerns after he warns of 'profound disagreements'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 December, 2013, 4:16am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 December, 2013, 4:22am

Joe Biden met US journalists working in Beijing yesterday after publicly criticising how they are treated by China's government.

Closing a two-day trip to Beijing, the US vice-president listened to concerns from journalists who may be forced to leave China in what some have perceived as retaliation for stories that have reflected poorly on the government.

US news organisations have warned China's actions could have an effect on the ability of American reporters to operate in the country.

"Innovation thrives where people breathe freely, speak freely, are able to challenge orthodoxy, where newspapers can report the truth without fear of consequences," Biden said earlier yesterday as he addressed US business chiefs in Beijing.

"We have many disagreements, and some profound disagreements, on some of those issues right now, in the treatment of US journalists."

The White House did not release a full list of journalists attending the session with Biden at a Beijing hotel. But The New York Times and Bloomberg, in particular, have fallen foul of Beijing over their reporting.

The websites of both US news organisations have been blocked in China since late last year after each published detailed investigative reports exposing the enormous wealth amassed by the relatives of leaders.

The two organisations have also seen unusually long delays in approvals for visas for their resident journalists - hindering their ability to replace existing reporters or hire new ones.

Jill Abramson, executive editor of the Times, was quoted in her own paper saying: "Unfettered coverage of China is a crucial issue. At a time when China is such an important and compelling story, the world needs the highest quality reporting on it."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said foreign media and journalists were always dealt with in line with laws and regulations. "Over the past few years, we have provided a very convenient environment for foreign journalists reporting in China," he said. "Everybody can see the progress we made.

"Whoever upholds objectivity and fairness will come to a correct conclusion regarding the work environment and life environment for foreign journalists."