Japan has lodged a protest with China about freedom of speech after Beijing blocked a Japanese reporter from covering a meeting between top diplomats from the two countries.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday excluded a reporter from the Sankei Shimbun — a conservative daily critical of China — from a media pool covering the start of a meeting between Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) and Japanese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Takeo Akiba.
Other Japanese media covering the event in Beijing then boycotted the pool coverage in protest.
“The Japanese government believes that respect for basic human rights including freedom of expression is a universal value in the international community, and ensuring those rights is important in any country,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters in Tokyo.
“From this viewpoint, it is extremely regrettable that this kind of affair happened, and we have lodged a protest to the Chinese side,” Suga added.
Akiba, who was in Beijing ahead of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s expected visit to China in October, also protested to Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Yucheng (樂玉成), Suga said.
However, Suga said bilateral relations between the two regional rivals are improving.
“The date of Prime Minister Abe’s visit is under coordination right now,” Suga said, adding that “we hope to push up to a new stage the relationship between Japan and China through visits by high-level officials.”
Fumihiko Iguchi, executive officer of the Sankei Shimbun, said that Beijing’s actions were “unfair obstruction of legal news-gathering activities that cannot be ignored.”
“We express our regret,” he said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that the daily “will do our best to continue giving our readers accurate information about the situation in China.”
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