The US has announced it will restrict the numbers of journalists working for Chinese state media after Beijing expelled three Wall Street Journal reporters last month.
The US State Department is putting a cap on the number of Chinese citizens permitted to work in the US at any one time for five media organisations designated by Washington as “foreign missions” for China.
The outlets affected are China Global Television Network, Xinhua News Agency, China Radio International, and the newspapers China Daily and People’s Daily, as the US said they were “effectively controlled” by the Chinese government and were “not independent news organisations”.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (pictured, right) said in a statement: “Our goal is reciprocity. As we have done in other areas of the US-China relationship, we seek to establish a long-overdue level playing field.
“It is our hope that this action will spur Beijing to adopt a more fair and reciprocal approach to US and other foreign press in China.
“We urge the Chinese government to immediately uphold its international commitments to respect freedom of expression, including for members of the press.”
Pompeo said the changes were not prompted by any content produced by the organisations and that no restrictions on what could be published would be introduced.
China revoked the press credentials of three Wall Street Journal reporters – two Americans and an Australian – in February over a headline that officials deemed to be racist and slanderous.
The headline called China the “Real Sick Man of Asia” in referring to the coronavirus outbreak, and the reporters were expelled after the Journal refused demands for a formal apology.
Pompeo said last night: “President Trump has made clear that Beijing’s restrictions on foreign journalists are misguided.
“The US government has long welcomed foreign journalists, including PRC journalists, to work freely and without threat of reprisal.”
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China yesterday released a report on working conditions for journalists in the country which found Chinese authorities are “using visas as weapons against the foreign press like never before”.
It said a record number of at least 12 correspondents had received visas of six months or less in 2019 compared to the usual one year, creating “much uncertainty” for journalists at outlets including the BBC, Telegraph and New York Times.
The FCCC said working conditions for foreign journalists in China had “markedly deteriorated” in 2019 as it shared fears authorities are preparing to expel more reporters.
The report said: “The influence and pressure brought to bear on foreign journalists in China reflects how Chinese authorities extend their reach and scope in chilling ways to ensure the ‘China story’ as but one narrative – theirs.
“The continued decline in reporting conditions in China, year on year, as mapped by this survey, should be a concern for all media organisations and governments, especially in the aftermath of the recent expulsions of the Wall Street Journal reporters.
“That concern should also extend to the Chinese people, who are demonstrably not being given the freedom of the press and freedom of speech granted in their constitution.”
Picture: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/Pool