China delays renewing visas for US media journalists

BEIJING: China has refrained from renewing the expiring press credentials for journalists from US media outlets, two of the affected news organisations reported, amid an ongoing tussle with the US over journalist visas.

The move comes as Chinese journalists in the US wait for their lapsed work visas to be renewed. The Chinese journalists have been allowed to stay in the US during a 90-day grace period that expires in early November, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Wall Street Journal’s Jeremy Page, a Briton, and American journalist David Culver from CNN were issued letters allowing them to continue working in China with their expired press credentials, the two outlets reported respectively.

Culver was told the arrangement had nothing to do with his reporting but was a “reciprocal measure” in response to the Trump administration’s treatment of Chinese journalists, CNN reported.

The Wall Street Journal reported that authorities had indicated that renewal of the press passes would depend on what happened with Chinese journalists in the US.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Monday on Twitter that “we would be glad to continue our excellent cooperation with the US journalists here if Chinese journalists are treated fairly in the US.”

“#CNN journalist and a few other US journalists’ visa extension applications are being processed, during which they can continue to live and work here with no problems at all”, she added.

Visas allowing foreign journalists to live in China are linked to their press credentials. The affected journalists could apply to renew their visas with the letter, but the new visa would only be valid for two months, CNN and the Wall Street Journal reported – shorter than the usual one year.

A CNN spokeswoman confirmed that one of its Beijing-based journalists was recently issued a visa valid for two months.

“However, our presence on the ground in China remains unchanged, and we are continuing to work with local authorities to ensure that continues,” she said.

A spokesman for Wall Street Journal parent Dow Jones did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Beijing and Washington, whose relations have deteriorated sharply over a range of issues, have exchanged several tit-for-tat actions involving journalists.

In March, the US slashed the number of Chinese nationals allowed to work at the US offices of major Chinese state-owned media to 100 from 160.

China then expelled about a dozen American journalists working for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.