Canada has blocked journalists with China’s official news agency and a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) newspaper from joining Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on an Arctic trip, prompting complaints by Chinese reporters who say they are being discriminated against.
The ban comes when relations between the two nations are already strained. The Canadian government recently accused Chinese hackers of infiltrating the computer systems of Canada’s top research and development organization, which Beijing denies. Just a few days later, authorities in China arrested a Canadian couple on suspicion of stealing state secrets about military and national defense research. They remain in custody.
The decision not to have reporters for the People’s Daily and the Xinhua news agency travel with Harper reportedly stems from an incident during last year’s trip to the Arctic, when Li Xuejiang (李學江) of the People’s Daily pushed former Harper spokeswoman Julie Vaux after she prevented him from asking a question.
Harper spokesman Jason MacDonald said in an e-mail on Friday from the Arctic that “some media outlets are not welcome on the trip.”
In a telephone interview, Li acknowledged pushing Vaux last year, but said that Harper’s office discriminated against Chinese journalists by not allowing him to ask a question and later having him “manhandled” by police.
“They used the police force to get me out of the line of the journalists. It is very rare in the world,” he said. “They made a bruise on my arm.”
Li, the bureau chief for the People’s Daily and a former Washington correspondent, said he could not understand why he was silenced. Harper’s staff limits the number of questions at public events.
Li said he did not even apply to go on this year’s trip.
“Why do they discriminate against Chinese journalists? For racial reasons?” he said. “They did not give me any reason.”
Xinhua reporter Li Baodong (李保東) said he applied, but was told that he could not go because of a lack of space. He does not understand why he was barred.
“This is really ridiculous. This is not just against Mr Li of the People’s Daily, it is also against all the Chinese journalists,” Baodong said. “It has nothing to do with me.”
Li and Baodong said they are considering issuing a complaint with the Ottawa press gallery.
David Mulroney, Canada’s ambassador to China from 2009 to 2012, said journalists in China can be quite aggressive, and have been for some time.
“I was once in a melee as they stampeded into a meeting room to get a photo of then-[Chinese] president Jiang Zemin (江澤民). I believe that journalism is one of those critical aspects of Chinese society that is changing slowly but steadily,” Mulroney said in an e-mail.
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