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Beijing and Washington have been sparring over their respective treatment of journalists. Photo: AFP

US calls China’s threats over visa renewals for Chinese journalists ‘unacceptable’

  • Washington denounces warning of reciprocal measures, saying the United States ‘adjudicated these applications in good faith’
  • Beijing says some Chinese media workers in the US have been given short extensions and will have to immediately reapply
Washington has denounced Beijing’s threats of countermeasures against US journalists in China, after China complained of visa renewal problems for its media workers in America amid heightened tensions between the powers.

In a statement, the US embassy in Beijing on Tuesday said China’s warning of reciprocal measures over the United States’ handling of requests for visa extensions by Chinese media staff was “unacceptable, inappropriate and misleading”.

“They attempt to equate lawful and transparent US action with politicised PRC [People’s Republic of China] bullying,” an embassy spokesman said. “The United States adjudicated these applications in good faith, while the PRC government has completely ignored our long-standing, reasonable requests for US journalists working in the PRC,” he said.

“We will continue to assess tools we can use to address the lack of reciprocity between how media are treated in China and in the United States.”


Beijing warns Washington against ‘political persecution’ of Chinese journalists in the US

Beijing warns Washington against ‘political persecution’ of Chinese journalists in the US

The remarks came after China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters on Monday that some Chinese journalists were notified last week that their visa extensions were valid from August 4 to November 4 – or until one day after the contentious US presidential election. The short validity period of their visas meant the journalists had to immediately reapply for renewals and would be unable to report on the news during the application period, he said.

“All of this has hurled Chinese journalists working and living in the United States into enormous uncertainty,” Wang said.

“We once again urge the US side to give up illusions immediately and stop its political persecution and suppression against Chinese journalists. Otherwise, China will resolutely take reciprocal measures.”

Visa hold-ups for journalists a sign of tightening media control and widening rift

Beijing and Washington have sparred over their respective treatment of journalists, with the Chinese government expelling more than a dozen reporters from three major US papers in China earlier this year. The tit-for-tat escalation came after the US in March capped the number of Chinese nationals who could work for Chinese state-run media in the United States to move towards media reciprocity.
This came on the heels of Beijing’s decision to bar three reporters from The Wall Street Journal in China over a derogatory headline on an opinion column in the American paper.
Wall Street Journal reporters (from left) Julie Wernau, Stu Woo and Stephanie Yang make their way through Beijing Capital International Airport in March. They are among a number of reporters forced to leave the country. Photo: AFP

The US embassy on Tuesday added that US diplomats had lobbied the Chinese government to allow expelled American journalists back into the country, but to no avail.

“This type of response is nothing new – the PRC’s practice of threatening, harassing, and expelling US and other foreign journalists goes back decades,” the embassy said. “The PRC government says it wants the world to know about China; however, its refusal to allow for a free and open press denies the world the ability to know what is really happening there.”

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As part of Washington’s push for reciprocity from China, the US designated 15 Chinese state media outlets in the US as “foreign missions”, requiring them to provide details of their employees and real estate holdings. In response, Beijing required 15 US media outlets in China to declare details about their staff, finances and real estate in the country.
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: US says Chinathreats over media visa renewals ‘unacceptable’