This statement was released by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China on March 18, 2020.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China deplores the cancellation of reporting credentials for American journalists with three U.S. newspapers, an action that will affect at least 13 of our colleagues, a group of talented and dedicated professionals. The total number of affected journalists at the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post could be higher, depending on how broadly Chinese authorities implement this decision.
Their imminent banishment from journalism in China diminishes us in number and in spirit, though not in our commitment to vigorously cover China. There are no winners in the use of journalists as diplomatic pawns by the world’s two pre-eminent economic powers. Journalists illuminate the world we live in. China, through this action, is dimming itself.
The FCCC also deeply regrets that authorities in Beijing have taken the further step of banning affected journalists from reporting in Hong Kong and Macau. The FCCC is not aware of any precedent for such a requirement.
Prior to today, China had expelled nine foreign journalists since 2013. Others have been denied visas altogether.
Since the beginning of 2019, at least 13 correspondents have also been given truncated-term visas with validity of six months or less. Since the beginning of 2020, three of those correspondents have been given one-month visas. Resident visas are typically issued for a year. By expelling journalists and keeping others in a state of visa uncertainty, China is overtly using its powers in an attempt to influence overseas news coverage, by punishing those who publish information authorities see as unfavorable and wish to keep quiet.
Foreign correspondents working in China are subject to surveillance and government pressure, in an environment of extreme hostility toward the types of factual reporting Chinese authorities claim to welcome. Such conduct is as unacceptable as it is longstanding.
In “Control, Halt, Delete,” the FCCC’s report on working conditions in 2019, 82% of surveyed correspondents said they experienced interference, harassment or violence while reporting; 70% reported the cancellation or withdrawal of interviews, which they know or believe to be due to actions taken by Chinese authorities; 25% were aware of sources being harassed, detained, called in for questioning, or otherwise suffering negative consequences for interacting with a foreign journalist; and 51% said they were obstructed at least once by police or other officials. Of those who reported from China’s north-western Xinjiang region, 65% were prevented from accessing locations by what they believe to be staged traffic accidents or road blockages.