By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, MAR 18: In what is being seen as another retaliatory action against the United States’ initial move to designate five Chinese media outlets as foreign missions of the Chinese government recently, China has banned US journalists from 3 major outlets who will be expelled and prohibited to work in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau.
On Wednesday, China ordered US nationals at the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post whose press credentials expire by the end of 2020 to return their press cards within 10 days.
Human Rights Watch called on the Chinese government to reverse its decision to expel reporters in this unprecedented order. Yaqiu Wang, China researcher at HRW noted, “The Chinese government’s unprecedented move chokes off a major element of the very limited space for reporting in China . . . Authorities already exercise near-total control over the domestic media, such that the foreign press has been vital in enhancing the world’s understanding of China.”
“In the midst of a global health crisis – when accurate and timely information is needed more than ever – Beijing’s decision only seals its image as an enemy of a free press. The Chinese government should immediately withdraw the ban and allow free reporting by domestic and foreign reporters,” Wang further said.
Authorities have also ordered five US media outlets (Voice of America, Time magazine, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post) to provide details about their personnel, operations, and assets in China.
Zhao Lijian, spokesperson of Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in its announcement that the decision was in response to US government’s order to cut the number of Chinese nationals from 160 to 100 in the four Chinese state media outlets in US: Xinhua News Agency, Chinese Radio International, China Daily Distribution Corporation, and China Global Television Network.
In this back and forth exchange, both US and China retaliated one after another. The Chinese government has long used expulsion and denial of visas to pressure foreign reporters. Authorities in China also refused to renew the visas of a BuzzFeed News reporter in 2018 and a Wall Street Journal reporter in 2019. In 2019, they denied a visa to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) reporter.