China on Friday slammed as “unjustified” the US criticism of denial of visas to journalists from top American media outlets after they published reports on the family wealth of top Chinese leaders.
The US statement does not accord with facts and foreign journalists in China should observe laws in the country, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said in response to the criticism.
“China expresses its displeasure” over the White House remarks, Hong said in his statement.
“China does not accept the unjustifiable accusations by the US side, and demands the US side to respect facts and take cautious words and acts,” he said, adding that the Chinese side urged the US side to “do more conducive to media exchanges and mutual trust between the two countries.”
Condemning the denial of visas to some of the New York Times and Bloomberg news agency correspondents, the White House had called Beijing to lift restrictions on foreign journalists and unblock websites.
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“The United States is deeply concerned that foreign journalists in China continue to face restrictions that impede their ability to do their jobs,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement on Thursday.
“These restrictions and treatment are not consistent with freedom of the press and stand in stark contrast with US treatment of Chinese and other foreign journalists,” he said.
This is perhaps the first time US government publicly criticised the denial of visas to American journalists after some of them joined media outlets like the New York Times (NYT) last year.
US Vice President Joe Biden reportedly took up the issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit here last month.
The reasons for the denial of visas according to US media have been attributed to NYT’s reports on former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s family assets amounting to USD 2.7 billion.
A similar report by Bloomberg alleged President Xi Jinping’s family too had a large asset base.
China termed these allegations as smear campaigns.
Austin Ramzy who earlier worked for Time magazine in China has not been given media accreditation for 2014 after he joined NYT.
Similarly, last year Chris Barkley, the China correspondent of Reuters, failed to get a work visa in China after he joined NYT. He has been working from Hong Kong ever since.
Ramzy reportedly went to Taipei to work from there.
Giving the Chinese version of events, Hong said Ramzy was a resident correspondent in China for Time magazine until last May when he stopped working for it.
Right after leaving Time, Ramzy notified in writing to the Chinese Foreign Ministry that he had left his post and handed back his Foreign Journalist Identity Card.
In accordance with Regulations Concerning Foreign Journalists and Permanent Offices of Foreign News Agencies, Hong said, Ramzy’s resident journalist visa has expired.
Afterwards, the New York Times handed to the Chinese side an application for Ramzy’s press credentials as its resident journalist in Beijing.
The application has not been approved yet, Hong said.
He said NYT did not apply to relevant Chinese departments to change Ramzy’s visa type and residence permit type while continuing to use his existing residence permit to come and go from China.
“That constitutes a violation of relevant laws and regulations in China,” Hong said.
He said the Chinese side is handling NYT’s application for Ramzy’s press credentials in accordance with laws and regulations.
China will continue to welcome foreign journalists’ news coverage and reporting in China, protect the legitimate rights and interests of foreign journalists and permanent offices of foreign news outlets in China in accordance with law and facilitate their work, he said.
“We also hope that foreign journalists observe Chinese laws and regulations and do news coverage in an objective and fair-minded way,” Hong said.
The Chinese side will, as always, administrate network in accordance with laws, he said.