China makes it clear to Foreign journalists; Need to follow local laws here

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Beijing: China on Monday said foreign journalists reporting from the country need to follow professional ethics and Chinese laws, as it dismissed a media group’s report that Beijing is using visa as a weapon to intimidate foreign media “like never before”.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian’s remarks while responding to questions on Foreign Correspondent’s Club of China (FCCC) annual report stating that Beijing is using visa as a weapon to control foreign media, following the expulsion of three Wall Street Journal reporters last month.

“We always welcome foreign media to cover news in China in an objective manner and we provide support and convenience for them, and which is witnessed by all,” Zhao told a media briefing here.

“In the meantime, the foreign correspondents in China should observe local laws and regulations and their professional ethics, which is the same in every country,” Zhao said adding FCCC is not recognised by China.

The Beijing-based FCCC in its report released said “Chinese authorities are using visas as weapons against the foreign press like never before, expanding their deployment of a long-time intimidation tactic as working conditions for foreign journalists in China markedly deteriorated in 2019”.

Titled “FCCC Report on Media Freedoms in 2019 ctrl+halt+Del”, it said the foreign journalists are not only being denied visas but Chinese authorities issued “record number of severely truncated visas to resident journalists” last year.

“Also for the second consecutive year, not a single correspondent said conditions improved, in response to an annual survey by the FCCC,” it said.

One Wall Street Journal correspondent was expelled in August last year after being denied visa followed by three more in January this year, the biggest expulsion in three decades, it said.

The three were expelled over THE WSJ carrying an article on the coronavirus crisis titled “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia”.

“This amounts to the most brazen attempt in the post-Mao Zedong era to influence foreign news organisations and punish those whose work the Chinese government deems unacceptable,” the report said.

“Since 2013, when (president) Xi Jinping’s ascension to power was completed, China has forced out nine foreign journalists, either through outright expulsion or by non-renewal of visas.

The FCCC fears that China is preparing to expel more journalists,” it said.

Zhao said what happened to the WSJ journalists was just an individual case.

“There are over 600 (foreign) journalists stationed in China.

They don’t need to worry about their reporting in China as long as they observe Chinese laws and regulations”.

On the content of the FCCC report, the spokesperson said “I must stress that we have never recognised this institution you mentioned. So, I think it is very inappropriate for this so-called organisation to say these things.”

The expulsions of the three WSJ journalists by China followed a day after US designation of five major Chinese state-run media companies as effective extensions of the Chinese government, sparking speculation whether Beijing action was a retaliation to Washington’s move.

The US official justified the designation saying the outlets are owned and effectively controlled by the government in Beijing and that each meets the definition of a foreign mission.

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