China imposes new visa restrictions on US media outlets

China imposes new visa restrictions on US media outlets

The Chinese government has yet to renew the press credentials for a group of journalists representing U.S. news organizations, an association of Beijing-based media workers said Monday.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) said in a series of tweets that at least five journalists from four U.S. news outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, CNN and Bloomberg, were impacted by new restrictions imposed by Chinese authorities. The journalists instead received letters granting them temporary status, which China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said could be revoked at any time, according to the group. The affected journalists can continue reporting in the country with the letter. 

The moves mark the latest escalation in tensions between the Trump administration and China. The FCCC said that journalists were explicitly told the press credential rejections were a response to the visa restrictions placed on Chinese journalists working in the U.S.

“These coercive practices have again turned accredited foreign journalists in China into pawns in a wider diplomatic conflict,” the group said. “The FCCC calls on the Chinese [government] to halt this cycle of tit-for-tat reprisals in what is quickly becoming the darkest year yet for media freedoms.”

CNN and The Wall Street Journal reported that their journalists were impacted by China’s latest maneuver. A Beijing-based CNN correspondent recently received a visa valid for two months instead of the usual 12, a CNN spokesperson told The Hill. Journalists’ visas in China are tied to their press credentials, the news network reported.

“Our presence on the ground in China remains unchanged, and we are continuing to work with local authorities to ensure that continues,” a CNN spokesperson said. 

China Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Twitter that a “journalist and a few other #US journalists’ visa extension applications are being processed, during which they can continue to live and work here with no problems at all.”

“We would be glad to continue our excellent cooperation with the #US journalists here if the Chinese journalists are treated fairly in the US,” she said. 

In May, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Chinese journalists working for non-American news outlets would only be able to obtain 90-day work visas instead of the open-ended visas they’d previously qualified for. The move came just months after China announced it was planning to expel reporters from The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.

DHS said in a statement at the time that the moves were “entirely necessary and reciprocal.” The U.S. later followed up that decision by labeling five Chinese state media outlets as “foreign missions.”

Chinese media workers in the U.S. are allowed to apply for 90-day extensions. China has said, however, that the U.S. hasn’t granted a visa extension since the announcement. Chinese journalists impacted by the decision reportedly had their visas rolled over for a 90-day grace period in August while their extension applications were processed. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Monday accused U.S. officials of “using Chinese journalists as hostages” as part of an effort to place pressure on China, according to the Journal. He also confirmed the measures were a response to restrictions imposed in the U.S., the newspaper noted. 

The State Department did not immediately return a request for comment from The Hill. 

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