BEIJING: Washington is concerned about press freedom in China, a senior US diplomat said in Beijing Wednesday as some US news organisations face repercussions over their reporting of issues deemed sensitive by the ruling Communist Party.
“There is no doubt that we are very concerned about the freedom of the press, about the ability for journalists to be here, to stay here, to have status here,” said Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, on the first stop of a three-country visit to Asia.
“All of those are very critical issues,” she added.
Washington has criticised China’s treatment of foreign correspondents after new reporters for The New York Times and Bloomberg were not given residence visas — apparent retaliation for investigative stories on the wealth amassed by leaders’ families.
Some members of Congress have backed a draft measure calling for reciprocal denials of US visas for Chinese media workers and executives.
Opinion on such a move remains divided in Washington.
China’s ruling party is highly sensitive about critical coverage of its leaders, while also keeping a tight grip on information in the country.
Beijing says it respects freedom of the press and that all journalists in the country must abide by Chinese law.
In November the US and China announced a deal to extend the validity of visitor visas — but not journalists’ — for each other’s citizens to as much as 10 years.
At a joint press conference with US President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping suggested that US news organisations had themselves to blame for not receiving visas.
“In Chinese, we have a saying: ‘The party which has created the problem should be the one to help resolve it’.
So perhaps we should look into the problem to see where the cause lies,” Xi said.
Sherman, who is also leading the US team in its nuclear negotiations with Iran, spoke to reporters in Beijing on the first leg of an Asia trip that will also take her to Seoul and Tokyo.