The State Department announced on Wednesday that six Chinese media outlets were being designated as “foreign missions,” the latest move in an ongoing tit-for-tat between the U.S. and China over media organizations. For The Hill, Tal Axelrod reported on the outlets named, and the implications of the designation:
State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a statement the agency is slapping the designation on Yicai Global, Jiefang Daily, Xinmin Evening News, Social Sciences in China Press, Beijing Review and Economic Daily, accusing the state-owned outlets of toeing the Chinese Communist Party line.
The designations do not impact the outlets’ ability to publish content in the U.S., but they do mandate the publications notify the State Department about its current personnel in the country, including basic information about the employees and the company’s property holdings. [Source]
A bit surprised that Yicai received this designation. It's owned by Shanghai Media Group, with significant investment from Alibaba. Yicai's coverage about the US is largely focused on business. Their magazine is one of the few news publications that I would buy and read in China.
— Zhaoyin Feng 馮兆音 (@ZhaoyinFeng) October 21, 2020
For the South China Morning Post, Catherine Wong reported on the backgrounds of the several of the newly designated newspapers:
Yicai Global is an English-language financial news website operated by the state-owned Shanghai Media Group.
Xinmin Evening News and Jiefang Daily are operated by the state-owned Shanghai United Media Group, with the latter being the official newspaper of the Shanghai branch of the Chinese Communist Party.
Social Sciences in China Press is run by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government-run think tank. Economic Daily is a Communist Party-run newspaper and Beijing Review is an English-language magazine produced by China International Publishing Group, the party’s foreign-language publishing house. [Source]
Earlier this year, CDT wrote about the designation of five other Chinese media outlets as foreign missions. That decision was followed by the expulsion of several China-based Wall Street Journal reporters by Beijing, in a move that was seen as retaliatory.
On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian called the designation “political oppression,” and vowed that Beijing would make a “legitimate and necessary response”. Those sentiments were echoed even more strongly by Hu Xijin, Editor-in-Chief of the Chinese state-backed tabloid Global Times:
The US has gone too far. The move will further poison working environment of media outlets in each other’s country. As long as Chinese media outlets suffer actual harm, Beijing will definitely retaliate, and US media outlets' operation in HK could be included in retaliation list. pic.twitter.com/xTSDyRHpx6
— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) October 21, 2020
The State Department has employed a number of tactics this year that have made it more difficult for Chinese journalists to operate in the United States. In May, the Trump administration imposed 90-day limits on work visas for Chinese journalists, requiring that they apply for visa extensions every three months. In August, slow processing of those visa extensions led the Chinese foreign ministry to criticize the US for “hostile action” against Chinese journalists and to issue warnings of further retaliation. Later that month, it was reported that Irish journalist Aaron Mc Nicholas was denied a work visa in Hong Kong. Nicholas was set to take up a new role as editor for Hong Kong Free Press, a local outlet that is frequently critical of the government.
Restrictions on foreign correspondents operating in Hong Kong are a relatively new development. Journalists in the territory have historically been significantly more free to report than their colleagues in mainland China. That began to change in 2018, when Victor Mallet, Asia news editor for the Financial Times, had his visa renewal rejected by the Hong Kong Immigration Department after he invited a local pro-independence politician to speak at the city’s Foreign Correspondents Club. Journalist visas have been further imperiled since the enactment of the Hong Kong National Security Law. In August, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club warned that foreign journalists were facing delays in renewing or securing visas in the city. According to the South China Morning Post’s Christy Leung, local media outlets reported that journalist visas were being vetted by a national security unit within Hong Kong’s immigration department.
In the United States, Chinese reporters are not the only journalists facing greater difficulty working. Revised immigration rules by the Trump administration have steadily made it harder for all foreign journalists to report in the U.S. Last month, the Trump administration announced it would revise the duration of stay allowances for foreign correspondents in the U.S. from five years to just 240 days. Those rules also eliminated the separate status of reporters from Hong Kong on journalist visas, in the latest move by the administration to equalize the status of Hong Kong and mainland China. According to BBC correspondent Zhaoyin Feng, journalists from Hong Kong are now subject to the same 90 day duration of stay limits, signifying that they are now treated the same as their mainland Chinese peers.
DHS is proposing to limit the stay period of I visa holders (foreign media representatives) to 240 days with possible extensions.
HK journalists are now treated the same as PRC peers, can only stay in the US for 90 days with possible extensions.https://t.co/iUooVSDl5C
— Zhaoyin Feng 馮兆音 (@ZhaoyinFeng) October 5, 2020
Dear U.S. journalists: This may not seem like the most important issue right now, but please take note that the DHS is proposing massive restrictions for foreign correspondents. The plan is to limit their stay in the U.S. to 240 days (from 5 years)! https://t.co/dUaASiSdpf
— Mathieu von Rohr (@mathieuvonrohr) October 19, 2020