White House slams China after American reporter kicked out

The White House condemned China's treatment of American journalists Thursday after a prominent reporter was forced to depart the country when his work visa was not renewed.

Austin Ramzy, a Beijing-based reporter for The New York Times, arrived in Taiwan on Thursday, according to his Twitter account. His visa to work in mainland China, where he has been for the past six years, expired earlier in the day.

"The United States is deeply concerned that foreign journalists in China continue to face restrictions that impede their ability to do their jobs, including extended delays in processing journalist visas, restrictions on travel to certain locations deemed sensitive by Chinese authorities and, in some cases, violence at the hands of local authorities," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement. "These restrictions and treatment are not consistent with freedom of the press - and stand in stark contrast with U.S. treatment of Chinese and other foreign journalists."

Carney also alluded to conversations among senior U.S. and Chinese officials about the questionable treatment of journalists working for American news outlets. Vice President Joe Biden reportedly pressed the issue personally with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a visit to Beijing.

"We have consistently and clearly expressed our expectation to Chinese authorities that China issue and renew visas for journalists working for U.S. media outlets in China," Carney said in the statement.

A bombshell New York Times report in 2012 ruffled the feathers of powerful Chinese leaders when it exposed widespread corruption at the highest levels of government. Since then, staffers from the Times and Bloomberg News have found it difficult to get their credentials renewed. Others have already been forced to leave the Communist country.

Other U.S. officials have spoken out about China's tightening grip on foreign journalists, who report more aggressively than Chinese journalists who work for state-run news agencies. In his confirmation hearing to be the next ambassador to China, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., reiterated the role the U.S. plays in advancing freedom around the world.

"We have some blemishes in our country, but we're the leader in world rights -- in human rights," Baucus told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday. "People look to America ... to lead on so many issues, including protection of human rights, religious freedoms (and) freedom of press."

Even as he works to renew his press credentials, Ramzy was apparently in good spirits after his flight landed.

"Arrived. And greeted by some hard-working gentlemen from (Taiwanese newspaper) the Apple Daily.  Happy New Year, everyone," he tweeted, referring to the Chinese New Year, which is on Friday.

  • Marshall Cohen

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