Wong Chun Han, a Beijing-based Wall Street Journal reporter, has been forced to relocate on the 30th of August following the denial of his visa renewal. Wong, a Singaporean national, recently reported on the possible involvement of a cousin of Chinese president Xi Jinping in a money laundering probe in Australia, which drew the ire of the Chinese authorities.
On the same day, the Chinese Foreign Ministry in a faxed statement to foreign media accused without mentioning names “a few foreign journalists” of “maliciously tarnishing China,” adding that the country doesn’t welcome such reporters.
“The work of journalists is not to please the ruling regime, but to inform their readers,” says Cédric Alviani, head of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) East Asia bureau, who also denounces “the constant effort of the Beijing government to pervert the very definition of journalism into state-controlled propaganda.”
In its annual report published in January, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) denounced a systematic policy aimed at restricting foreign journalists through visa threats.
This punishment method was used in 2018 against Megha Rajagopalan, Beijing-based China bureau chief of BuzzFeed News and Hong Kong-based Financial Times news editor Victor Mallet. In 2016, Swedish journalist Jojje Olsson had to leave China for the same reason, as did Ursula Gauthier from French magazine L'Obs in the previous year. In 2012, the New York Times and Al Jazeera were also met with the same situation, as was the Canadian Daily Globe and Mail in 2009.
China ranks 177th out of 180 countries and territories in the RSF World Press Freedom Index 2019 with more than 115 journalists jailed.