The Foreign Ministry and the US embassy are embroiled in a war of words over the non-renewal of the visa of a journalist who had recently reported extensively on the ongoing security clampdown in the Xinjiang region.
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Megha Rajagopalan, the Beijing bureau chief of Buzzfeed News, was effectively forced out of the country after officials decided not to extend her journalist visa. She has been working in China for the last six years.
The US embassy issued a statement on Friday in response saying it is "deeply concerned" about Beijing's treatment of foreign and domestic journalists.
"The United States is deeply concerned that foreign and domestic journalists in China continue to face excessive restrictions that impede their ability to do their jobs," it said.
Reporters face "delays in processing foreign journalist visas, overboard restrictions on travel to certain locations deemed 'sensitive' by Chinese authorities and, in some cases, violence at the hands of local authorities", it said.
But the foreign ministry spokesman hit back at the embassy during a regular press briefing.
"As to China's internal affairs, the US embassy in China should know that it should abide by the Vienna convention and not engage in activities that don't correspond with their capacity," spokesman Lu Kang said.
Rajagopalan said on Twitter that the reasons for the government's decision to deny her a visa extension remain unclear, with authorities telling her it was a "process thing".
Lu on Thursday played down the decision, saying "this problem of a visa being 'cancelled' doesn't exist".
"She is not like you, she was never a resident journalist in China," Lu told reporters, referring to the fact that Rajagopalan had worked on the mainland on a six-month renewable visa rather than the one-year visa given to most journalists posted in the country.
The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China said in a statement Wednesday that Rajagopalan had "conducted herself according to the highest journalistic standards while in China".
The foreign ministry "declined to give a clear and transparent reason for denying her a visa", it added, accusing authorities of "effectively ejecting" Rajagopalan from China.
But in an editorial about the government's decision, nationalist tabloid the Global Times lashed out at Rajagopalan for what it described as "distorted reports" about the government's treatment of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.
"Some Western media outlets believe they are entitled to do whatever they want, but such nonsense is unacceptable," it said, adding that "relevant agencies in China are not going to step aside and do nothing when it comes to Western media's treatment of China". (AFP)