As tensions between the United States and China getting worse, new visa restrictions on foreign journalists working for US news organizations in China have been imposed by Beijing as both countries continue to target each other’s media outlets.
Instead of a new press card, a letter that said their applications were being processed was handed over to several journalists when they had gone for routine renewal of their press credentials in the past week. Such cards are valid for a year and generally a new press card is issued. The journalists were asked to carry the letter along with them together with their expired press cards to prove their journalistic identity.
The foreign journalists were also issued a new visa that was valid for only about two months instead of the usual tenure of one year because such journalists also have their Chinese visas tied to their press cards.
The temporary press credentials as well as the visas that are linked to them could be revoked anytime, the Chinese authorities have also made it clear. In such a case the journalists would be left in a limbo as they would be unsure about how long they would be allowed to stay and work in China.
Reported of both US and non-US citizenship from several major US media outlets have been targeted in this new visa rules.
The measure by the Chinese authorities have hit CNN correspondent David Culver, an American, and Jeremy Page, a British national, senior correspondent of The Wall Street Journal.
Naming Bloomberg in addition to CNN and the Journal, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) noted in a statement that the move had affected at least five journalists at four US news organizations.
His reporting was in no way connected to the latest restrictions, Culver was told by Chinese officials according to the CNN, but was actually a “reciprocal measure” to the treatment of Chinese journalists in the United States by the Trump administration.
Culver’s new shortened visa was confirmed by a CNN spokesperson on Sunday.
“One of our Beijing-based journalists was recently issued a visa valid for two months, instead of the usual twelve,” the spokesperson said. “However, our presence on the ground in China remains unchanged and we are continuing to work with local authorities to ensure that continues.”
Instead of new press cards, more foreign journalists based in China are expected to receive the letters, said the FCCC in a statement while expressing “dismay” over the situation.
“These coercive practices have again turned accredited foreign journalists in China into pawns in a wider diplomatic conflict,” the statement said. “The FCCC calls on the Chinese government to halt this cycle of tit-for-tat reprisals in what is quickly becoming the darkest year yet for media freedoms.”
Information about the Chinese government’s impending measures targeting US media in China was recently provided to US diplomats in Beijing, the US State Department revealed on Sunday.
“The United States is of course troubled that these proposed actions … will worsen the reporting environment in China,” said department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus. “Beijing’s actions prove time and again that the [ruling Chinese Communist Party] is afraid of independent and investigative media reporting that has only broadened and deepened the world’s understanding of China for the better.”
(Adapted from CNN.com)