China plays games with journalism visas

But at least it is not as bad as 2013.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China conducts an annual survey of its members (and a few outsiders) on the visa renewal process.

The bottom line for the 2014 survey period: “In general, the visa renewal process went more smoothly this year than last.”

The survey of 2013 was a damning indictment of the pettiness of the Chinese government authorities:

This year it became more obvious than ever that the Chinese authorities abuse the press card and visa renewal process in a political manner, treating journalistic accreditation as a privilege rather than a professional right, and punishing reporters and media organizations for the content of their previous coverage if it has displeased the government.

The most public cases were the denial of visas (or slow walking of the paperwork) to the New York Times and Bloomberg for their reports on how wealthy family members of prominent Communist Party members became and where they are hiding their money.

(See summary here.)

The 2014 report showed that while the visas were handled in a more professional manner, there were still cases of intimidation and out-right threats.

“In one run-in with the authorities, they made perfectly clear they would see us again at the end of the year for visa-renewal. In that sense it was a covert threat.”

“In case of new hire, visa delay was explained by MOFA in a meeting with bureau chief as being the result of concerns about bias in her previous job.”

“I had two interviews where I was questioned about my reporting on Xinjiang and told that the Foreign Ministry would need to be satisfied with my attitude in order to approve my press card. In the end they said they were and that my card would be approved.”

Animosity toward Western media (and Japan is counted in that group, oddly enough) has been a standard feature of how Beijing deals with the press. When we lived in Shanghai — 1992-1994 — the two Western journalists allowed to live there (Reuters and — I think — Asahi Shinbun) had their phone lines cut and received extra shadows in the lead up to the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

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Filed under Censorship, China

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