China refuses to renew press cards for US journalists as media row deepens
Wall Street Journal, CNN, Bloomberg and Getty Images staff told curbs in response to US measures against Chinese media
Chinese authorities have refused to renew the press credentials for at least five reporters for US news organisations based in China, in the latest deterioration of ties between the two countries.
Journalists from the Wall Street Journal, CNN, Bloomberg and Getty Images who recently attempted to renew their press cards were told they could not because of US measures against Chinese journalists in the US, according to statements and people familiar with the matter.
Instead the journalists were issued letters that gave them temporary permission to work using their expired press credentials, which are usually valid for one year. Officials indicated that the future of their press cards would depend on whether the White House allows Chinese journalists to continue working in the US.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China said it was “very alarmed” and that it expected more foreign journalists based in China to receive these letters. The organisation said permission could be revoked at any time, putting the journalists at “constant threat of expulsion”.
“The Chinese government has explicitly said the move comes in response to a looming visa expiry deadline of 6 November for Chinese journalists based in the US, most of whom work for Chinese state media,” it said in a statement on Monday. “These coercive practices have again turned accredited foreign journalists in China into pawns in a wider diplomatic conflict.”
CNN said its Beijing-based correspondent, David Culver, an American citizen, was told by Chinese officials that the restriction was a “reciprocal measure” after US decisions to limit visas by Chinese journalists in the US.
“However, our presence on the ground in China remains unchanged and we are continuing to work with local authorities to ensure that continues,” CNN said in a statement.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Jeremy Page, a British reporter in its Beijing bureau was also affected by the restrictions. Both CNN and the Wall Street Journal said their reporters were told that their visas, which depend on the validity of a press card, would be renewed but shortened to two months. Getty Images declined to comment on the issue.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying posted on Twitter that the visa extension applications were “being processed”. China “would be glad to continue our excellent cooperation with the U.S. journalists here if Chinese journalists are treated fairly in the US,” she wrote.
At a regular press briefing in Beijing, spokesman Zhao Lijian said China had notified the US side of the status of the reporters’ applications and that their work and lives in China “would not be affected”.
China and the US have for months been locked in tit-for-tat retaliation over the treatment of journalists in both countries. In the first half of this year China expelled 17 journalists, many of them from the US, after the Trump administration labelled Chinese state media operating in the US as foreign missions.
In May, in response to the suppression of US journalists in China, the Trump administration limited the length of time that Chinese reporters could remain in the US to three months, with the possibility of renewal. Those visas were reportedly due to expire in November – around the same time the recently affected CNN and Wall Street Journalist journalists visas will end if they are not renewed.
Since then, reporting conditions in China have worsened further with foreign correspondents blocked from conducting interviews and followed by security agents. Some academics have said that they must go through a special approval process to speak to foreign media.
Earlier this month, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times reporting on protests in Inner Mongolia was grabbed by the throat and pushed into a cell at a police station where she was detained for four hours.
Hua Chunying, the Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, said on Thursday that the “media issue” between the US and China was one born out of a “cold war mentality”.
“If the US keeps moving down the wrong path, China has no choice but to take justifiable and necessary countermeasures to firmly uphold its legitimate rights,” she said.