Vice President Joe Biden had a friendly exchange with his Chinese counterpart, Li Yuanchao, before heading to a luncheon on Thursday.
Andy Wong, Associated Press
Biden makes strong case for press freedom in China
- Article by: David Nakamura
- Washington Post
- December 6, 2013 - 4:28 AM
BEIJING – Vice President Joe Biden forcefully complained to Chinese leaders about threats to expel U.S. journalists as part of a government crackdown on foreign media organizations, officials said Thursday.
Biden met privately Thursday with a group of foreign journalists who are being threatened with expulsion, and reporters were told that he brought up the issue at all three of his meetings with China’s top leaders, including President Xi Jinping.
Some of the affected journalists expressed hope that with Biden personally lending his weight and potential loss of face to their cause, the chances that their visas would be granted at the last minute would increase.
Nine journalists from the New York Times have not yet received visas to remain in China past Dec. 31, the newspaper’s executive editor said, and at least 14 at Bloomberg News are similarly affected, according to a journalist briefed on the Biden meeting. In addition to the Times and Bloomberg, other media organizations represented at the meeting with Biden included the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and Reuters news agency, as well as the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China.
Biden reportedly registered his concerns directly with Xi during a wide-ranging bilateral meeting a day earlier, and in a speech to U.S. business executives Thursday morning in Beijing, he publicly denounced the practice of intimidating journalists. “Innovation thrives where people breathe freely, speak freely, are able to challenge orthodoxy, where newspapers can report the truth without fear of consequences,” Biden said during his remarks. “We have many disagreements, and some profound disagreements, on some of those issues right now, in the treatment of U.S. journalists. But I believe China will be stronger and more stable and more innovative if it respects universal human rights.”
The Chinese government has threatened not to issue or renew work visas for journalists from the Times, Bloomberg and other organizations in the wake of critical stories. And the Times reported last month that Bloomberg editors killed two stories out of fear that the company’s journalists would be expelled, an allegation that Bloomberg officials denied.
The Wall Street Journal, the Times, Reuters and Financial Times all have Chinese websites or services that have been blocked off and on over the years. London-based Reuters was believed to have been included in the meeting with Biden because U.S. reporter Paul Mooney was refused a visa after waiting eight months to begin a new assignment in China for Reuters.
“It’s an unfortunate situation,” New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson said in a telephone interview. “We’re eager to work with Chinese officials to have our visas renewed as we have in past years.” But Chinese authorities have told Times journalists that their visas “are not being processed,” she said, and the government has complained to the paper about its stories on the vast wealth accumulated by Chinese “princelings,” top Communist Party members, bureaucrats and their relatives, saying the reports have been unfair and disrespectful of Chinese law.
Abramson strongly defended the stories, calling them “true and accurate and fair and in the larger public interest of readers around the world.” She said the Times is “prepared to cover China in every way we can.”
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