China curbed foreign journalists’ work on Covid-19 pretexts, used some as pawns in diplomatic disputes

A Chinese police stops foreign journalists at a gate of the Chaoyang hospital in Beijing. (Photo courtesy: AFP)

(, Mar01’21) – Foreign journalists working in China have seen a “rapid decline in media freedom” in 2020 with Beijing using coronavirus prevention measures, intimidation and visa curbs to limit their reporting. Journalists were also used as “pawns” in China’s diplomatic disputes, Reuters Mar 1 cited the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) as saying in its annual report.

For the third year in a row, no journalists told the group that working conditions had improved, the FCCC has said, based on 150 responses to a survey of correspondents and interviews with bureau chiefs.

The group has said, “All arms of state power – including surveillance systems introduced to curb coronavirus – were used to harass and intimidate journalists, their Chinese colleagues, and those whom the foreign press sought to interview.”

It has said authorities cited public health concerns to deny reporters access to sensitive areas and threatened them with enforced quarantine. Besides, visa restrictions were also used to put pressure on reporting.

Referring to the use of journalists as “pawns” in China’s diplomatic disputes, the group has said China expelled more than a dozen foreign journalists at US media organizations in 2020, amid a series of tit-for-tat actions between the countries. Washington also slashed the number of journalists permitted to work in the United States at four major Chinese state-owned media outlets.


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