WASHINGTON, March 3 (NNN-AGENCIES) — The United States said it was slashing the number of Chinese nationals permitted to work at the US offices of major Chinese state-owned media outlets to retaliate against Beijing’s “long-standing intimidation and harassment of journalists.”
Citing a “deepening crackdown” on all forms of independent reporting inside China, administration officials said Beijing’s attacks on free speech were worse than they were a decade ago, comparing them to those of the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War.
Effective March 13, Washington will cap the number of US-based employees of Xinhua News Agency, China Global Television Network, China Radio International and China Daily Distribution Corp at 100 from 160 currently.
China last month revoked the visas of three Wall Street Journal reporters in Beijing after the newspaper declined to apologize for a column with a headline calling China the “Real Sick Man of Asia”. Another reporter with the paper had to leave last year after China declined to renew his visa.
“For years, the government of the People’s Republic of China has imposed increasingly harsh surveillance, harassment, and intimidation against American and other foreign journalists operating in China,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
“It is our hope that this action will spur Beijing to adopt a more fair and reciprocal approach to U.S. and other foreign press in China,” he said.
Tensions between the two superpowers have escalated since President Donald Trump came to office three years ago, with disputes over issues ranging from trade to accusations of Chinese spying in the United States and to U.S. support for Taiwan.
“We have some differences but we do not think it is appropriate for the United States to take steps in interfering with the work of journalists coming from China,” China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun told a news conference.
The personnel caps would be placed on the entities as opposed to people hence it would be up to the media outlets to decide the necessary staffing cuts, the officials said.
The United States would also announce in the near future limits on duration of stay for Chinese journalists, administration officials said. — NNN-AGENCIES