“The United States is deeply concerned with the increasingly harsh surveillance, harassment and intimidation of U.S. and other foreign journalists in the People’s Republic of China,” said State Department Spokesperson Ned Price.
In a statement, Mr. Price cited the most recent example of such harassment: the dangerous intimidation of foreign journalists reporting on the devastating floods and loss of life in the central province of Henan. Several journalists were subjected to threats of violence online, and others were physically confronted by angry crowds.
As Spokesperson Price wrote, the PRC’s “harsh rhetoric, promoted through official state media, toward any news it perceives to be critical of PRC policies, has provoked negative public sentiment leading to tense, in-person confrontations and harassment, including online verbal abuse and death threats of journalists simply doing their jobs.”
At a recent news conference, PRC Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian claimed that the “reporting environment for foreign correspondents in China is open and free.” This simply isn’t the case. The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China’s annual report on media freedom found that 82 percent of surveyed correspondents said they’d experienced interference, harassment, or violence while reporting.
The U.S. State Department’s latest human rights report on the PRC noted that “Government harassment of foreign journalists was particularly aggressive in Xinjiang,” and included constant surveillance, staged traffic accidents, road blockages, and cyberattacks. It also cited the expulsion in 2020 of three Wall Street Journal reporters and the government’s designation of the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and Voice of America as foreign missions, “forcing all three to report details to the government about their staffing, finances, and operations within the country.”
In addition, the State Department reported that the visa renewal process was used by PRC authorities to challenge journalists and force additional foreign reporters out of the country, while local employees working for foreign press outlets were subjected to increased harassment and intimidation.
Beijing’s intensifying campaign against foreign media comes just months before it hosts the 2022 Winter Olympics. Spokesperson Price urged the PRC “to act as a responsible nation hoping to welcome foreign media and the world” to the upcoming games.
He noted that in her recent meeting with PRC officials in Tianjin, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman raised the importance of media access, freedom from harassment, and press freedom. “We call on PRC officials,” Mr. Price said, “to ensure that journalists remain safe and able to report freely.”