Al Jazeera English correspondent, Melissa Chan, has been expelled from China.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China is appalled by the decision of the Chinese government to take this action.
Chinese officials had expressed anger at a documentary the channel aired last November. Melissa Chan did not even play a part in making that documentary. They have also expressed unhappiness with the general editorial content on Al Jazeera English and accused Ms Chan of violating rules and regulations that they have not specified.
This is the most extreme example of a recent pattern of using journalist visas in an attempt to censor and intimidate foreign correspondents in China (see details below*).
The FCCC believes that foreign news organisations, not the Chinese government, have the right to choose who works for them in China, in line with international standards.
Melissa’s expulsion followed 3 months of uncertainty during which time she was issued short term press credentials rather than the standard one-year accreditation. When her final one-month accreditation was not renewed she was obliged to leave the country because reporters are not issued Chinese residence permits without such accreditation.
Melissa Chan is a member of the FCCC board.
The FCCC views this matter as a grave threat to foreign reporters’ ability to work in China.
For further details on this matter please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
*At the end of last year an FCCC survey (with additional research) found the following regarding visas for foreign correspondents in China:
- Over the past two years 27 foreign reporters were made to wait for more than four months for visa approvals. Thirteen of these had to wait for more than six months and were still waiting at the time of the survey.
- Three requests presented in 2009 had not received a response, which in practice meant they had been denied.
- Twenty eight permanent postings or reporting trips had been cancelled since 2009 because applications for the required journalistic visas were rejected or ignored by the Chinese authorities.
- In six cases foreign reporters say they were told by the Foreign Ministry officials that their bureaux’ visa applications had been rejected or put on hold due to the content of the bureaux’ or the applicant’s previous coverage of Chinese affairs.