‘Unprecedented hurdles’ for foreign journalists in China

Domestic News

The foreign press corp in China, still coping with the visa cancellations of early 2020, says that Beijing has only dialed up its harassment of journalists in China, including of Chinese staff at international news bureaus.

china journalist harassment
Illustration for SupChina by Derek Zheng

The Beijing-based Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) has released its annual report that details the dim state of reporting conditions in China today. According to the survey of the club’s 192 members, of which 127 responded:

  • Foreign reporters are “facing unprecedented hurdles covering China as a result of the government’s efforts to block and discredit independent reporting.”
  • State-backed trolling campaigns against some journalists have been so intense that “a handful of correspondents, demoralized and under attack, have simply left mainland China.”
  • COVID-19 policies are being arbitrarily used to restrict reporting — “52% of respondents said they were told to leave a place or denied access for health and safety reasons when they presented no risk, according to China’s own regulations.”
  • Local Chinese staff are also being harassed — “Nearly 40% said their Chinese staff had been pressured, harassed, or intimidated by government authorities at least once,” FCCC said in a Twitter thread summarizing the survey’s findings.

The FCCC also raised concern over the unresolved cases of two journalists currently imprisoned under vague circumstances in China, the Bloomberg News staffer Haze Fan and Chéng Lěi 成蕾, an Australian citizen. They are among as many as 127 journalists who are currently behind bars in China and Hong Kong.

What about the Biden-Xi agreement on journalist visas?

Journalist visa cancellations were some of the more striking signs of increasing U.S.-China tensions in the spring of 2020, as the Trump administration kicked out some 60 employees at Chinese state media from the U.S., and China responded by expelling at least 13 American journalists, in addition to revoking the work permits of local Chinese news assistants.

Last November, after a meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xí Jìnpíng 习近平, the two sides agreed to renew at least a portion of these visas.

  • That hasn’t happened yet, per the FCCC, which reported, “As of the end of 2021, China had yet to grant visas to the handful of U.S. journalists promised under the agreement.”

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