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'Journalists as diplomatic pawns': Questions and outrage as China set to expel US reporters


“The Chinese will tell you that they want more information, people to know more about their country, and yet they continue to take actions like the one you see today, where they deny the world the capacity to know what is really going on inside of their country,” said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Mike Pompeo.

Mike Pompeo. File photo: USGov.

“The individuals that we identified a few weeks back were not media, they were acting here freely, they were part of Chinese propaganda outlets. We have identified these as foreign missions under American law.”

Senator Marco Rubio

The journalist expulsions “show the true nature of the Chinese Communist Party towards a free and open press,” said Senator Marco Rubio.

The Hong Kong government

“Hong Kong enjoys press freedom. The HKSAR Government has been facilitating media organisations and journalists from other countries to cover news in Hong Kong. This policy is in compliance with the Basic Law and the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle,” the local government said.

Microphones media journalists hong kong

File photo: inmediahk.net

“Hong Kong has always adopted a pragmatic and open policy on the employment of professionals in Hong Kong, allowing those possessing special skills, knowledge or experience of value to and not readily available locally to work in Hong Kong, including journalistic work.”

“In handling each immigration case, the Immigration Department will consider the circumstances of the case and act in accordance with the laws and immigration policies.”

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Hua Chunying

“We reject ideological bias against China, reject fake news made in the name of press freedom, reject breaches of ethics in journalism,” said China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Hua Chunying.

Former Hong Kong governor Lord Chris Patten and British politicians

In a jointly-signed letter to the UK foreign office, Patten, former UK foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, MPs Alistair Carmichael, Fiona Bruce, Catherine West and barrister Sir Geoffrey Nice urged Downing Street to speak out on the expulsions.

“This is yet another example of the intensifying erosion of Hong Kong’s basic freedoms and autonomy, which have been increasingly undermined over the past six years. It is also a breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which guarantees Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy under the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle fo the first 50 years after the handover of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty,” it read.

Chris Patten.

Chris Patten. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

“As a co-signatory to the Joint Declaration, the United Kingdom has a responsibility to lead the world in speaking out in the clearest and most robust terms against the outrageous decision, which not only undermines press freedom in Hong Kong but will have a further effect on business confidence in the city.”

Media

Executive Editor of the New York Times Dean Baquet

“We strongly condemn the decision of the Chinese authorities to expel American journalists, an action that is especially irresponsible at a time when the world needs the free and open flow of credible information about the coronavirus pandemic,” said Executive Editor of the New York Times Dean Baquet.

“It is critical that the governments of the United States and China move quickly to resolve this dispute and allow journalists to do the important work of informing the public. The health and safety of people around the world depend on impartial reporting about its two largest economies, both of them now battling a common epidemic.”

“The New York Times has been reporting on China since the 1850s, and we remain committed to covering the country, where we have more journalists than anywhere else outside the United States. It is a grave mistake for China to move backwards and cut itself off from several of the world’s top news organisations.”

Editor in Chief of The Wall Street Journal Matt Murray

“China’s unprecedented attack on freedom of the press comes at a time of unparalleled global crisis. Trusted news reporting from and about China has never been more important,” said Editor in Chief of The Wall Street Journal Matt Murray.

“We oppose government interference with a free press anywhere in the world. Our commitment to reporting fully and deeply on China is unchanged.”

Executive Editor of the Washington Post Marty Baron

“We unequivocally condemn any action by China to expel US reporters. The Chinese government’s decision is particularly regrettable because it comes in the midst of an unprecedented global crisis, when clear and reliable information about the international response to Covid-19 is essential. Severely limiting the flow of that information, which China now seeks to do, only aggravates the situation,” said Executive Editor of the Washington Post Marty Baron.


Rights groups

Foreign Correspondents Club China (FCCC)

The FCCC said in a statement that it deplored the measure, adding: “There are no winners in the use of journalists as diplomatic pawns by the world’s two pre-eminent economic powers.”

“Their imminent banishment from journalism in China diminishes us in number and in spirit, though not in our commitment to vigorously cover China.”

journalism National People's Congress npc beijing great hall

File photo: Lukas Messmer/HKFP.

“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.”

“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.”

Foreign Correspondents Club Hong Kong (FCC)

“The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong, is alarmed at the decision of the Chinese government to expel US journalists working for The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. The FCC is even more concerned by reports that they will be banned from working as journalists in Hong Kong, given that Hong Kong has its own system under which press freedom is a right according to the law,” the press club said.

fcc china flag independence

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club. File photo: HKFP.

“Under the Basic Law, all decisions about employment visas for foreign nationals in Hong Kong, including journalists, have been made independently by the Immigration Department.”

“The Hong Kong government must immediately clarify the situation and must immediately and without reservation provide assurances that foreign journalists working in Hong Kong and those applying to work in Hong Kong will continue to be issued employment visas without interference from the Chinese government.”

Human Rights Watch

Yaqiu Wang, China researcher at Human Rights Watch, condemned the expulsions as an attempt to censor foreign reporting: “The Chinese government’s unprecedented move chokes off a major element of the very limited space for reporting in China… Authorities already exercise near-total control over the domestic media, such that the foreign press has been vital in enhancing the world’s understanding of China.”

National People's Congress npc beijing great hall

Photojournalists at the 2017 National People’s Congress. File photo: Lukas Messmer/HKFP.

“In the midst of a global health crisis – when accurate and timely information is needed more than ever – Beijing’s decision only seals its image as an enemy of a free press.”

“The Chinese government should immediately withdraw the ban and allow free reporting by domestic and foreign reporters.”

Amnesty International

Joshua Rosenzweig, head of Amnesty International’s China team, called the expulsions disturbing: “This shameful assault on freedom of expression targets journalists who have uncovered the reality of numerous human rights violations in China, from Xinjiang to Hong Kong. These publications have also been among those providing in-depth investigations into Wuhan’s Covid-19 outbreak.”

“This latest escalation of the tit-for-tat row between Beijing and Washington threatens to severely undercut the flow of accurate and independent information from China. At a time when the world needs to work together to combat the devastation wrought by the virus, the banishment of these journalists could potentially have grim public health consequences – globally and within China.”

media journalists press freedom

File photo: United Nations.

“It’s particularly disturbing that these journalists are also being summarily denied the right to work in Hong Kong and Macau – a decision that should be left to the respective governments. This appears to be yet another example of how the territories’ purported autonomy and freedoms under the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ model are gradually being eroded… The Hong Kong government must urgently clarify the implications of this announcement for its autonomy under the Basic Law.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

RSF’s East Asia Bureau Head Cédric Alviani called on Beijing to immediately reverse its decision: “This is not a ‘media war’ between the US and China, as it is sometimes incorrectly [called], but rather the latest episode of China’s aggressive moves against press freedom in the world.”

“It is not appropriate to compare the restrictions taken by Beijing with the ones taken by Washington earlier this month. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, as well as Voice of America and Time magazine, enforce abide by the principles ethics of journalism – including editorial independence and verification of facts for the public benefit – and have been doing crucial coverage on the outbreak of the coronavirus in China. Meanwhile, the Chinese state media officially serve as mouthpieces for the Chinese Communist Party.”

journalists

Hong Kong journalists outside a courtroom. File photo: Karen Cheung/HKFP.

“The purpose of press freedom is not to let authoritarian regimes freely disseminate contents that suit their interests. Rather, it is to empower the citizens through the provision of unbiased information, and protect the public against attempts to spread propaganda and disinformation. China’s decision goes against everything that press freedom stands for.”

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)

The IFJ issued a statement along with its affiliates, the Hong Kong Journalists Association and Associação de Imprensa em Português e Inglês de Macau, saying they were “deeply” disappointed by the decision which will harm the public’s right to know “at a critical juncture.”

“The free flow of information that journalists facilitate is pivotal, particularly in the face of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic… The IFJ is disappointed at the decline in relations between the US and China that has led to the unnecessary targeting of journalists.”

The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA)

“We regret mainland China’s decision to restrict US media in Hong Kong and Macau and urges the Hong Kong government to clarify visa arrangements,” said the The Hong Kong Journalists Association.

hong kong flag china extradition bill june 16 may james (9) (Copy)

Fil photo: May James/HKFP.

“Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are the cornerstones of Hong Kong’s success. Restricting the normal interview activities of foreign media in Hong Kong and conducting political scrutiny of visas for foreign media will raise international questions about whether Hong Kong is still a free and open society, which will ultimately have a serious impact.”

Associação de Imprensa em Português e Inglês de Macau (AIPIM) 



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