China and US Ease Restrictions on Media Workers

China and US Ease Restrictions on Media Workers

The process of granting and extending visas to journalists is often politicized or used as a weapon by the US and China. Both countries agreed to reduce this tension.

Ummatimes - China and the United States (US) agreed to mutually relax various restrictions for media workers from both countries. The official China Daily newspaper on Wednesday said the agreement was reached ahead of a virtual meeting between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden on Tuesday (16/11).

Under the deal, the US will issue entry visas for one year to Chinese media workers, the China Daily wrote. Meanwhile, China will provide the same treatment to US journalists after US policy takes effect. The two sides also agreed to issue media visas to new applicants "based on relevant laws and regulations," the report said.

A US State Department spokeswoman said on Tuesday that discussions in recent months had resulted in "some preliminary progress" in "a number of areas" in the media area.

The official said China was "committed to issuing visas to a number of US journalists, provided they are eligible under all applicable laws and regulations."

Beijing also pledged to "allow US journalists already in the PRC (People's Republic of China) to freely leave and re-enter the country, which they were previously unable to do," the official said. Both parties also agreed to extend the validity period of journalist visas to one year, which was previously limited to only three months.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Wednesday told reporters that "this hard-won achievement is in line with the media interests of both sides, and is worthy of respect." He added that Beijing hopes "both sides will implement relevant policies and measures as soon as possible."

Efforts to expand access to media
The US State Department said it "remains in close consultation with the affected media offices, as well as other media facing personnel shortages due to the PRC government's policy decisions, and we are grateful that their correspondents will be able to return to the PRC to continue their important work. We welcome this progress but look at it." only as a first step."

The State Department also said it would continue to work to expand access and better conditions for US and foreign media workers in China. Currently they face many obstacles ranging from interrogation by the police, harassment that prevents them from doing their jobs, personal threats, to lawsuits filed by the people they interview.

In a statement to the AP news agency late Tuesday, the State Department said China had committed to issuing visas to a group of US journalists "provided they are eligible under all applicable laws and regulations."

"We will also continue to issue visas to (Chinese) journalists who qualify for visas under US law," the statement said.

But the statement made no mention of press conditions in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory of Hong Kong, where pressure on local and international media is mounting. The Economist said last week that Hong Kong had refused a visa extension for its correspondent Sue-Lin Wong. Authorities have not explained the refusal.

Journalist visas are prone to politicization
Restrictions on media workers have fueled tensions between the two countries for more than a year. Previously the US cut the validity of 20 visas issued to Chinese state media workers. At that time, the US also required those who still have valid visas to register as foreign agents.

China responded to this move by expelling journalists working for US media and severely restricting conditions for those who could continue to work in the country.

Asked about the Sue-Lin Wong case, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said issuing visas was "the autonomy and discretion of any government." Lam added that authorities do not comment on individual cases but will continue to facilitate Hong Kong-based overseas media operations "in a lawful manner."

The Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong said it was "deeply concerned" over Sue-Lin Wong's denial of a work visa. "We again call on the government to provide concrete assurances that work visa applications and visa extensions will be handled in a timely manner with clear terms and procedures, and that the visa process for journalists will not be politicized or armed," the club said in a statement last week.

Wong is one of a number of journalists in Hong Kong who have been denied visas. In 2018, Hong Kong authorities refused to renew the work visa of Financial Times senior editor Victor Mallet. The refusal came after Mallet led a lunchtime conversation at the city's Foreign Correspondents Club with the leader of the Hong Kong independence party (the party is now banned). Authorities did not say why Mallet's visa application was rejected.

In 2020, Hong Kong also did not renew the work visa for Chris Buckley, a New York Times reporter who worked in Hong Kong after being expelled from China, as well as the visa for Irish journalist Aaron Mc Nicholas, then the new editor for independent media, Hong Kong. Free Press.