A senior German official on Monday expressed concern about limits facing foreign correspondents in China and urged Beijing to allow state-funded German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle to open an office in the Chinese capital.
German State Secretary of the Federal Foreign Office Andreas Michaelis underscored the importance of freedom of speech and the press as central rights in the German constitution in remarks at the opening of a one-day German-Chinese journalist dialogue.
“We are concerned when we hear reports about obstruction of the work of foreign journalists in China,” Michaelis told two dozen Chinese and Western media representatives, and Chinese Vice Minister of the State Council Information Office Guo Weimin (郭衛民).
Michaelis said that Deutsche Welle had tried unsuccessfully for some time to open an office in Beijing.
“We believe, that as strategic partners we should use the opportunity to get to know one another better, and to understand each other’s perspectives. In Germany, we can receive China Global Television Network in every hotel, in every household. Why should this not be possible in China for Deutsche Welle?” he said.
Michaelis said he welcomed news that German weekly newspaper Die Zeit would soon be reopening an office in China, and said he hoped that other media would be able to do so as well.
The newspaper has not had a correspondent in China for three years.
“We may not always have the same opinion, but less dialogue is not the right way to overcome our differences,” the German diplomat said.
Deutsche Welle director-general Peter Limbourg said the organization had tried unsuccessfully for years to open an office in China, and the Chinese government also blocked its content from being seen in China.
“This exclusion of free expression should not only be seen as an unfriendly act, but is also a sign of the Chinese government’s mistrust of its own people,” he said.
Deutsche Welle opened an office in Taipei three months ago to better cover the region, a spokesman said.
Veteran Chinese journalist Gao Yu (高瑜), who had worked for Deutsche Welle as a columnist, remains under strict house arrest in China and is barred from publishing after being convicted of leaking state secrets in April 2015.
In 2016, several Deutsche Welle journalists were granted entry to China ahead of a G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, but were then refused the necessary accreditations for the event.
Guo, who spoke at the dialogue after Michaelis, did not address his comments on Deutsche Welle.
Guo said media organizations had an important role to play in promoting understanding, combating trade protectionism and helping expand economic ties.
“In a world in which we cooperate more and more, the media are a bridge that ... connects us,” he said, citing several cooperation agreements between German and Chinese media groups.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in October told foreign journalists to roam the country and report more, even as five global news organizations found themselves without invitations to cover a speech where Xi introduced his new leadership line-up following a once-in-five-years Chinese Communist Party Congress.
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