China set to expel journalists after investigations into families of leaders

The Beijing authorities are angry about a series of investigations into the wealth of China’s political elite, including President Xi Jinping (above). Photograph: Kim Kyung-Hoon-Pool/Getty Images

The Beijing authorities are angry about a series of investigations into the wealth of China’s political elite, including President Xi Jinping (above). Photograph: Kim Kyung-Hoon-Pool/Getty Images

Tue, Dec 17, 2013, 23:03


Unless there is a last-minute resolution, the Chinese government looks set to expel a group of two dozen foreign journalists from the Bloomberg news agency and the New York Times.

Beijing has been withholding the visas for reporters in apparent retaliation for the agencies’ investigative stories on wealth accumulated by leaders’ families.

Should the government not begin approving renewals for visas due to expire within the next few days it would effectively shut down the two organisations’ news-gathering operations in the country.

The Global Times newspaper, which is part of the Communist Party’s mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, ran an opinion piece yesterday headlined: “China can’t cede agenda-setting to western media”.

“[New York Times columnist Tom] Friedman should understand that Chinese authorities are breaching their duty if they allow western media to work in China unchecked,” the op-ed piece said.


Series of investigations
The Beijing authorities are angry about a series of investigations into the wealth of China’s political elite, including those of former premier Wen Jiabao and President Xi Jinping.

The article was a strong rebuttal to an open letter to Mr Xi by Friedman demanding China remove the block on Bloomberg’s website, and some Chinese-language websites of mainstream western media such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

“Information security is among China’s core security concerns. China is willing to communicate with the world, but it won’t yield its own agenda-setting rights to the western media,” the article said.

At the end of the year, all foreign correspondents in China must renew their press card with the foreign ministry and then apply to get their visas from the police.

This year the authorities are withholding resident journalist visas for the entire foreign reporting staff of the New York Times and Bloomberg.

“The Communist Party and Chinese government have stepped up efforts to shape news coverage and suppress stories they find objectionable, applying pressure in various forms in an arguably unprecedented fashion,” Jill Abramson, executive editor of the New York Times, said in a statement read out at a congressional executive commission on China in Washington on last week.