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Chinese Official Questioned About Al Jazeera Reporter's Expulsion

  • VOA News

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei answers reporters' questions in Beijing, China (file photo)

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei answers reporters' questions in Beijing, China (file photo)

Al Jazeera English announced Tuesday that its Beijing correspondent Melissa Chan did not have her visa renewed. That is in effect, an expulsion from China. The following is a transcript of some of the questions and answers at the Chinese Foreign Ministry's daily briefing, where spokesman Hong Lei answered foreign reporters' questions about the Chinese government's action. The foreign ministry omitted the following exchange when it released the official transcript of the briefing.

Q: I just want to know whether the expulsion of Melissa Chan should be seen as a warning to other journalists operating in China?

Hong Lei: “I have just answered relevant questions. On the issue of foreign journalists our policies and moves are easy to see. We will continue to provide convenience for foreign journalists reporting in China and we welcome foreign journalists to report in China. At the same time we need to stress that foreign journalists should abide by Chinese laws and regulations, as well as professional ethics of journalists while reporting in China.”

Q: Under what circumstances will Al Jazeera be given press credentials and visas for a new reporter?

Hong Lei: “The Beijing branch of Al Jazeera is still functioning normally.”

Q: So if there is a new correspondent for Al Jazeera will you give them a visa?

Hong Lei: “We will process relevant procedure in accordance with laws and regulations.”

Q: Can you tell us who made the decision to deny Ms. Chan, was it the Foreign Ministry or another department?

Hong Lei: “We deal with relevant matter in accordance with law.”

Q: Can you give us any specifics on why Melissa Chan was expelled from the country because there is a lot of confusion here and unless you’re more specific about it it’s very difficult for us to get a picture of exactly what’s going on.

Hong Lei: “I have already answered this question.”

Q: I think the main concern of the journalists is that the Chinese government, you use the issue of visa as a way to censor journalists’ work in China. Is this a precedent of how the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will behave in the future?

Hong Lei: “I have stressed that China welcomes foreign journalists to report in China and we have also provided convenience to foreign journalists in reporting objectively in China. I think you have been in China for several years and are very clear about this. At the same time I want to stress that foreign journalists should abide by Chinese laws and regulations while reporting in China.”

Q: What could the Chinese government say if a Chinese journalist was expelled from a foreign country?

Hong Lei: “I want to point out that the Chinese government will follow strictly relevant regulations in dealing with foreign journalists.”

Q: Chinese laws and regulations are written down, so even if we don’t know which ones Melissa is accused of violating we know what they say. No where as I know is the Chinese government’s conception of journalistic ethics written down. How can we judge whether our behavior is consistent with Chinese conception of journalist ethics, and can you offer us guidance as to what that conception looks like?

Hong Lei: “I think our policies and laws regarding foreign journalists is very clear. In your work and exchanges with us we have briefed you on relevant Chinese laws and regulations which is also the basis for your work in China. With regard to relevant issue I think relevant media and journalists are clear about that.”

Q: What would the Chinese government say to accusations that it is censoring foreign media with the expulsion of Melissa Chan?

Hong Lei: “I have pointed out China follows relevant laws and regulations in dealing with relevant journalists. I think relevant media and journalists are very clear about what kind of roles and regulations they have broken.”

Q: Where can we see those regulations because we are having some problem in finding which law and regulation was broken. So where can I check the regulation if want to see some number or article was broken according to Chinese law?

Hong Lei: “I think have answered the relevant question.”