Journalist Expelled from China Reflects

At The Los Angeles Times, Rosanna Xia interviews Melissa Chan, former Beijing correspondent for Al Jazeera English, who last week became the first accredited journalist since 1998 to be expelled from China.

“A lot of journalists have done black jail stories,” she said, but hers “was probably the first” to get coverage on TV [Chan refers here to a 2009 report, not, as the story implies, one from March this year]. “It’s also the first time that we got a government official to respond to a question about the existence of black jails.” The official denied the black jails existed, “but it was on the record, Chan said, “so that was useful for human rights groups. And that could be one reason why there’s the perception that I’m a go-getter ….”

But Chan said she doesn’t consider herself the most hard-hitting reporter in China. She admires the many journalists who covered last year’s pro-democracy protests in China, and those who sneaked across the border when Tibetans set themselves ablaze in resistance — both stories she did not pursue. For all of April, she was stuck in Hong Kong, unable to report on the breaking story of blind dissident Chen Guangcheng ….

“I have to face the reality, which is I’m not going back to China any time in the near future, not the way that this has played out,” she said. “And I’m sure I’ll be back in China someday. It’s just a question of when.”

Chan wrote about her reporting and expulsion from China in a blog post at Al Jazeera English last Friday. China’s Foreign Ministry tried to present its own side of the story at a press conference earlier in the week, but has still not offered a clear explanation for the decision.