Chinese authorities have been withholding residence visas for reporters working for the New York Times and Bloomberg in apparent retaliation for the agencies’ investigative stories on wealth accumulated by Chinese leaders’ families.
If authorities do not soon start approving renewals for visas due to expire by the end of the year, it would effectively shut down or significantly curtail the two organizations’ newsgathering operations in the country.
The Foreign Correspondents Club of China said in an e-mailed statement to members yesterday that none of the correspondents working for the Times and Bloomberg in China have been able to renew their residence visas for next year.
“The authorities have given no public explanation for their actions, leading to the impression that they have been taken in reprisal for reporting that displeased the government,” the statement said.
A Bloomberg spokeswoman in Singapore declined comment, while the Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Chinese Public Security Bureau, which grants residence permits, did not respond to a faxed list of questions.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei (洪磊) yesterday said at a regular briefing that China’s treatment of foreign journalists consistently follows laws and regulations.
US Vice President Joe Biden met with US journalists working in Beijing during his visit last week and publicly criticized their treatment by the Chinese government.
Biden also raised the issue directly with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).
The Times and Bloomberg have nearly two dozen journalists in China whose visas are up for renewal by the end of the month and Beijing has refused to act on them, the paper reported last week.
In addition, the Times has been unable to obtain resident journalist visas for its China bureau chief Philip Pan and correspondent Chris Buckley.
Beijing-based reporters from the Times were among those who met with Biden.
The newspaper said he told them that he warned Chinese leaders there would be repercussions for China if the journalists were expelled, especially in the US Congress. The Times said Biden told reporters that Xi insisted that foreign journalists were being treated according to Chinese law.
The two news organizations have had their Web sites blocked in China since late last year after each published detailed investigative reports exposing the enormous wealth amassed by the relatives of Chinese leaders — including Xi and former Chinese premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶).
Chinese authorities had initially accepted resident journalist visa renewal applications from the Times’ reporters. However, they stopped doing so — and in some cases returned applications to reporters — after the newspaper ran a report last month detailing ties between JPMorgan Chase and a consultancy in China run by Wen’s daughter.
The Chinese-language Web sites of the Wall Street Journal and Thomson Reuters have also been blocked in China since last month.