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China Orders Local Staff Out of U.S. News Outlets in Beijing

2020-03-21 20:21:11

(Bloomberg) —

Authorities in Beijing have forced at least seven Chinese nationals to stop working for American news outlets there, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the latest development in an ongoing dispute between the U.S. and China over media access.

Members of the New York Times, Voice of America and two other outlets were dismissed from their jobs on Thursday and Friday, the group said, identifying only the newspaper and the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster. China had days earlier expelled more than a dozen American journalists working for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post in response to a cap being placed on how many Chinese journalists can be in the U.S.

The tit-for-tat exemplifies how fraught U.S.-China ties have become despite the signing of a phase-one trade deal in January and calls for more global cooperation to contain the coronavirus. In addition to media, the countries have also feuded over the use of “Chinese virus” by U.S. officials to describe the outbreak and an assertion by a Chinese official that the the U.S. military spread the virus.

Foreign news outlets in China are barred from directly employing Chinese nationals. They are instead employed through the Beijing Personnel Service Corporation for Diplomatic Missions, which is affiliated with the foreign ministry. It was this agency that dismissed members of U.S. media in the past few days, the Washington-based Committee to Protect Journalists said.

When asked Thursday at the Chinese foreign ministry’s daily press briefing if the local employees of U.S. outlets had been told their work credentials were being revoked, spokesman Geng Shuang said relevant authorities manage the employees of foreign media in accordance with laws and regulations.

China’s foreign ministry last week also ordered the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Voice of America and Time magazine to submit written declarations about their staff, operations, finances and real estate in China. That was in retaliation for the U.S. earlier ordering five Chinese state-owned media to be classified as “foreign missions.”

In response to a request for comment, a spokesperson for Voice of America confirmed the Committee to Protect Journalists’s statement while declining further comment. A spokesperson for the Washington Post referred to an earlier statement by Executive Editor Martin Baron condemning the expulsion of reporters. Time Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal, in a statement provided by a spokesperson, said the outlet opposed the expulsion and intimidation of journalists.

A spokesperson for the Wall Street Journal declined to comment while the New York Times didn’t immediately respond to queries. A spokesperson for Bloomberg, which has news bureaus in Beijing and Shanghai, declined to comment.

(Updates to add comments from Voice of America and Time in penultimate paragraph)

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