China has expelled journalists from three US newspapers in retaliation to the restrictions imposed on its news outlets in the US. The Chinese foreign ministry has ordered the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal to release information of their operations in China, ordering their reporters to turn over media passes within 10 days.
The measures were in response to “unwarranted restrictions on Chinese media agencies” in the US, said the ministry.
China usually gives journalists only 12-month visas and press cards, so the measure is likely to impact most correspondents. It will decimate some of the biggest newsrooms in China and force reporters with decades of experience covering the country to leave.
They will be barred from working not only in the mainland, but also Hong Kong, the self-autonomous city that has in the past provided a base for China correspondents unable to get a visa from Chinese authorities.
“They will not be allowed to continue working as journalists in the People’s Republic of China, including its Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions,” the ministry of foreign affairs said.
The ministry also demanded information about their operations in China.
The three papers whose staff are being expelled – and two other US outlets, Time and Voice of America – will be required to “declare in written form information about their staff, finance, operation and real estate in China”.
The measures were in response to “unwarranted restrictions on Chinese media agencies” in the US, it said.
“This is obviously an escalation in the tit-for-tat between Washington and Beijing. But the scale and scope of it is surprising, disproportionate and unprecedented,” said Yuen Chan, senior lecturer in journalism at City University London.
“It’s particularly unusual and disturbing that Hong Kong and Macau are included in the restrictions. In the past, American correspondents who’ve been kicked out or experienced visa delays have worked in their organisation’s bureaus in Hong Kong – this won’t now be possible.”
The decision to include Hong Kong in the announcement raised disturbing questions about the city’s autonomy, as it is meant to control its own media accreditation under the “one country, two systems” agreement between the UK and China that succeeded the handover from colonial rule.
Earlier this month, the Trump administration imposed limits on the number of Chinese citizens who could work as journalists in the US – the latest move in a tit-for-tat row over press freedoms.
“What the US has done is exclusively targeting Chinese media organisations, and hence driven by a Cold War mentality and ideological bias,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Beijing to reconsider its decision, calling the move “unfortunate”.
“I regret China’s decision today to further foreclose the world’s ability to conduct the free press operations that, frankly, would be really good for the Chinese people in these incredibly challenging global times, where more information, more transparency are what will save lives,” Mr. Pompeo said. (Source: BBC)