The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong (FCC) yesterday said that reporters in the territory were experiencing “highly unusual” visas problems, and called on the US and China to stop using the media as a political weapon.
Journalists have been caught up in US-China tensions, with both sides placing limits or expelling reporters from their territories in the past few months.
Now the spat is filtering into Hong Kong, a regional press hub nominally in charge of its own immigration policies.
The FCC said in a statement that multiple media firms had reported delays getting visas in recent months.
“The delays have affected journalists of multiple nationalities and in some cases have prevented journalists from working,” it said. “The delays are highly unusual for Hong Kong, a city with historically robust press protections.”
Hong Kong’s government has not explained any change to its policy, despite multiple inquiries from media.
In mainland China, where the press is heavily censored, foreign journalists must apply for specific visas and face routine harassment.
However, reporters only need a regular business visa to work in Hong Kong.
Multiple news organizations are now reporting issues getting or renewing visas for staff — something they have not experienced before.
The New York Times last month was the first to go public with its difficulties, saying that it would relocate some of its Hong Kong staff to South Korea after multiple delays and at least one outright rejection.
The difficulties come as Washington and Beijing clash over reporter credentials.
The administration of US President Donald Trump placed visa and headcount restrictions on some Chinese media in the US, all of whom are state-controlled.
Beijing responded with restrictions, including expelling a group of reporters from multiple US firms who were also banned from working in Hong Kong.
On Tuesday, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that “necessary and timely countermeasures” would be taken if the US continued to limit Chinese reporters.
Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin (胡錫進) said that Beijing would “retaliate, including targeting US journalists based in Hong Kong.”
The FCC condemned the restrictions placed by both sides.
“The FCC opposes using journalists’ visas as a weapon in international disputes and also opposes taking action against journalists for the decisions made by their home countries,” it said. “This downward spiral of retaliatory actions aimed at journalists helps no one, not least of all the public that needs accurate, professionally produced information now more than ever.”
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