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China says it will retaliate if US continues ‘down wrong path’ against Chinese journalists

China and US flags (Sgt. Mikki Sprenkle/WikiCommons)
August 17, 2020

A Chinese official recently said they will take action against American journalists in China if the United States doesn’t grant visa extensions to U.S.-based Chinese journalists.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said 60 Chinese journalists employees have already been forced to leave the U.S. due to the restrictions placed on their staff, Fox News reported on Aug. 4. Wenbin said China will retaliate against the U.S. if they continue to impede Chinese journalists.

“If the U.S. is bent on going down the wrong path and doubles down on its mistakes, China is compelled to make necessary and legitimate reactions to firmly safeguard its legitimate rights and interests,” Wenbin said. Wenbin offered his remarks amid discussions about impending visa restrictions that would affect many Chinese journalists without a U.S. order extending their visas.

Wenbin did not say what actions China would take against American journalists in China, though he noted that Hong Kong is part of  “China’s territory.”

Wenbin’s comments come after a June order by the U.S. State Department, designating nine Chinese media entities as “foreign missions” under the Foreign Missions Act. The designation means that the entities are “substantially owned or effectively controlled by a foreign government.”

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“Over the past decade and particularly under General Secretary Xi Jinping’s tenure, the CCP has reorganized China’s state propaganda outlets disguised as news agencies and asserted even more direct control over them,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a June press release. “[Xi] has stated ‘Party-owned media must…embody the party’s will, safeguard the party’s authority…their actions must be highly consistent with the party.’ In short, while Western media are beholden to the truth, PRC media are beholden to the Chinese Communist Party.”

The State Department said that the decision to designate these entities as “foreign missions” is not based on any content they produced. The designation also does not limit or restrict what the entities may publish in the United States.

“It simply recognizes them for what they are,” the State Department wrote in June. “This designation recognizes PRC propaganda outlets as foreign missions and increases transparency relating to the CCP and PRC government’s media activities in the United States.”

The designation primarily requires the Chinese entities adhere to some of the same administrative requirements that also apply to foreign embassies and consulates in the U.S. Five of the media outlets have been subjected to visa restrictions following the State Department order. The visa restrictions had limited the number of employees of those Chinese media outlets that are permitted into the United States.

“The relevant U.S. actions have severely disrupted Chinese journalists’ normal reporting activities, gravely damaged the reputation of the Chinese media and affected the normal people-to-people exchanges between the two sides,” Wenbin said in his remarks last week. “While priding itself on freedom of the press, the U.S. now willingly obstructs the Chinese media from doing their job.”

China has already responded to the designations by forcing dozens of journalists from the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the Washington Post to leave China earlier this year.