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New York Times, Bloomberg To Be Expelled From China

US VP Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping  (Washington Post)  


Two US-based media organisations – the New York Times and Bloomberg News – could be expelled from China with Beijing refusing to renew work visas of their journalists. Recent articles by both highlighted issues of corruption and nepotism among China’s elite.

Although in the past China has delayed or denied individual journalists visas this is the first time entire staff of the two institutions have been asked to leave.
“Twenty four foreign journalists working for the New York Times and Bloomberg could be forced to leave China in the coming weeks after officials stalled over renewing their visas,” said Malcolm Moore, in the UK Guardianwriting from Beijing.
This was confirmed by David Nakamura in the Washington Post. He said “Ian Johnson, a New York Times writer based in China, wrote on Twitter: ‘China is about to expel all NYT and Bloomberg correspondents from China – unprecedented. Biden raised issue with Xi.'”
The reference is to US Vice President Joe Biden who is in Beijing at the moment as part of an East Asian tour. He was expected to raise controversial issues such as China’s designation of a Air Defence Identification Zone over the disputed islands in the South China Sea, before the issue of the journalists’ expulsion surfaced.
The Post reported that Biden who met a group of mostly American journalists privately where he said he had brought up the matter with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Biden also registered his displeasure about Chinese intimidation of journalists at a bilateral meeting a day earlier: “‘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,” reported the Post.     
The move to deny journalists visas, appears to be in retaliation for articles published earlier by The Times and Bloomberg on financial corruption. Said Moore, “[a]n article last October exposing the secret £1.65 billion fortune of the family of the then prime minister, Wen Jiabao, enraged the Chinese government, which has since censored both the English and Chinese websites and denied journalist visas for two incoming staff.”
On November 17, the New York Times carried an article on Bloomberg’s chief editor, Matthew Winkler, killing a story by one of the organisation’s Hong Kong-based staffers Michael Forsythe who was also suspended for working on an investigative story on a Chinese billionaire. The Times said, “Winkler had decided to kill “an investigative article because of fears that Bloomberg would be expelled from China.” Please see this blog’s post here.
Meanwhile, this blogin a posting on November 13 titled ‘US Media Moghuls Helping China Export Repression?’ highlighted an article in The Atlantic titled ‘Legitimising the ‘Civilized Internet’: China’s Seduction of U.S. Media’ highlighted the journal discussing a meeting of the Presidium of the World Media Summit in October. The WMS is the brainchild of the Chinese Communist Party but has among the members of its top decision-making body a number of US media companies including The New York Times, Google, Associated Press, as well as the BBC, Al Jazeera and others.
The Atlantic suggests that one of the reasons these organisations are in the presidium is to improve the penetration of their media businesses into China. The New York Times, BBC, Google and CNN websites have been blocked on and off in China in the past and reporters from The Times and Al Jazeera not granted visas to enter the Chinese mainland.

Enlightening Profile on a Dentist Turned Writer and Government Critic

Yesterday’s Guardian UK featured a profile on Alaa al Aswany, a bestselling Arab novelist who is known in his home country of Egypt for speaking out against the repressive regime under President Mubarak. Aswany, who never fully left his day job of practicing dentistry, is currently promoting his new book, Friendly Fire, along with a recently revived title, The Isam Abd el-Ati Papers, which was banned from Egypt a decade ago. Due to the unfavorable commentary on the country that appears in the book, the state run General Egyptian Book Organisation told Aswany that Isam Abd el-Ati Papers would never be published unless he removed the offending chapters. His next two books were bestsellers for five years in the Arab world and are read in 27 different languages.

When he is not filling cavities or penning bestsellers, Aswany also writes newspaper columns voicing his views on Egypt’s regime. He says he’s convinced that Democracy is coming to Egypt and that the country will soon serve as a model for other Arab countries. “Now there are more and more protests in the street. Everyone is on strike. There is real pressure, you can feel it. You cannot deny it, even if you’re from the government.”

When asked if his fame has kept him from governmental backlash, he says, “I cannot compare what has happened to me with what has happened to some of my friends and comrades who have been tortured and beaten. What has happened to me – banning me from attending the premiere of The Yacoubian Building – is negligible in comparison. But, in any case, writing and fear are absolutely contradictory. Writing is an expression against fear.”

You can read the whole article at the Guardian UK’s site here.