Chinese authorities haven’t renewed expiring press credentials for at least three reporters working for U.S. media outlets, the latest escalation in a back-and-forth over journalist visas as relations between the U.S. and China deteriorate.
Beijing has issued special letters to the journalists, one of whom works for The Wall Street Journal, that allow them to continue working with their expired press credentials for now. Chinese authorities indicated that renewal would depend on the fate of Chinese journalists in the U.S.
CNN reported that their correspondent David Culver is among those affected by the move.
Normally, a Chinese press card has to be renewed for a visa to be issued. Two of the reporters, Mr. Culver and Journal senior correspondent Jeremy Page, were told their visas were being renewed but cut to two-month terms from one year previously.
At least one other journalist working for a U.S. outlet is in a similar situation, according to people familiar with the matter.
A spokesperson at CNN confirmed the new visa restrictions on Sunday, adding: “Our presence on the ground in China remains unchanged and we are continuing to work with local authorities to ensure that continues.”
China’s latest move comes as the U.S. has yet to formally renew the work visas of U.S.-based Chinese journalists, for whom a three-month grace period expires in early November, according to the people familiar with the issue.
In May, Washington shortened the length of work visas for Chinese journalists at non-U.S. media outlets to a maximum of 90 days with the possibility of renewal. U.S. officials cited China’s “suppression of independent journalism” and the recent expulsion of American journalists as reasons for their move.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said during a news briefing in August that Washington hadn’t granted a single visa extension since the announcement of that decision. He accused the U.S. of double standards and said China would take countermeasures if Washington didn’t change course.
The affected Chinese journalists have been allowed to remain and work in the U.S. after the Aug. 6 deadline, according to people familiar with the matter. Their visas were rolled over for an additional 90-day grace period while their applications for an extension are pending.
It couldn’t be determined what would happen to the visas or press credentials of the affected foreign journalists working for American outlets in China if Washington doesn’t renew the visas for the Chinese journalists in the U.S.
Mr. Culver is a U.S. citizen, while Mr. Page, a British national, and the third journalist aren’t.
Washington and Beijing have been locked in an escalating tit-for-tat spanning a range of domains, including the media. Journalists living in China and the U.S. have been subjected to tightening restrictions from both sides as tensions have risen over issues such as trade and national security—all of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic this year, itself the subject of mutual blame and suspicion.
In February, Beijing expelled three China-based news reporters at the Journal in response to a headline of a column in the opinion section that China’s Foreign Ministry decried as racist. The Journal maintains a strict separation between its news and opinion departments.
In March, Washington ordered cuts to personnel at four Chinese state-run media outlets that the State Department had earlier classified as “foreign missions” akin to embassies and consulates.
Under that cap, the Xinhua News Agency, China Global Television Network, China Daily and China Radio International reduced the number of Chinese employees in the U.S. to 100 people, from 160 people.
Beijing then revoked the press credentials of nearly every American citizen working in China for the Journal, the New York Times and the Washington Post.
In June, the State Department designated four more Chinese media outlets as foreign missions.
The State Department said it has been working to convince Beijing to let the expelled American journalists return to the country and is troubled by what it called a continuing pattern of harassment.
“The United States is of course troubled that these proposed actions by the PRC will worsen the reporting environment in China, which is already suffering a dearth of open and independent media reporting,” the State Department said. “The record of the PRC [the People’s Republic of China] harassing, and expelling U.S. and other foreign journalists goes back decades.”
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