The United States on Tuesday accused China of “threatening” and “harassing” foreign journalists after it refused to renew press credentials for several employees of American media organisations.
The two superpower rivals have restricted reporter visas — with China expelling journalists — as brinkmanship over trade and tech, Hong Kong and the coronavirus, spills over into the media.
China’s record of “threatening, harassing, and expelling US and other foreign journalists goes back decades”, US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement provided by the US Embassy in Beijing.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently informed the US embassy in Beijing of new curbs on foreign reporters “by denying them press card renewals and refusing to process pending visa applications for journalists who were expelled earlier this year,” she said.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) on Monday confirmed the action, saying at least five journalists at four media groups — including the Wall Street Journal, CNN and Bloomberg — had been denied new press cards.
More are expected to receive similar treatment in coming weeks, placing further pressure on the already diminished foreign press corps.
The US has been “working relentlessly” to convince China to allow US journalists back into the country, the State Department spokeswoman added.
A record 17 foreign journalists were expelled from China in the first half of 2020 alone, the FCCC said.
Foreign journalists are usually not allowed to work in China without valid press cards, which are also a requirement for gaining a residence permit.
Reporters are instead receiving letters that temporarily allow them to work using their expired press cards, but these “could be revoked at any time”, the FCCC said.
China says the moves merely mirror curbs placed on its journalists working in the US — where Donald Trump’s administration has curtailed the visas of Chinese reporters to 90 days.