The U.S. is criticizing China's treatment of foreign reporters after a New York Times journalist was forced to leave the country.
Veteran China correspondent Austin Ramzy had to leave after authorities failed to renew his visa, a move considered by some to be an act of retribution against the paper's coverage of government officials.
White House spokesman Jay Carney issued a statement Thursday saying, "these restrictions and treatment are not consistent with freedom of the press and stand in stark contrast with U.S. treatment of Chinese and other foreign journalists."
He also said the two countries should be increasing opportunities for media exchanges to improve mutual understanding and trust.
"We remain concerned that Mr. Ramzy and several other U.S. journalists have waited months, and in some cases years, for a decision on their press credentials and visa applications," Carney said, adding that the U.S. would continue to raise concerns about the treatment of reporters, blocked access to media websites and other press restrictions in China.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden last year raised the issue of China's crackdown on Western news media with top Chinese leaders during a visit to Beijing. Since then, China has made some progress on processing dozens of journalist visa applications for foreign reporters.
Ramzy posted several messages to Twitter before leaving on a flight from the Beijing airport Thursday, saying he was sad to be leaving and hopes to return soon.
He is the second Times correspondent in 13 months forced to leave mainland China because of failure to receive a visa.
The paper in 2012 published a report detailing the alleged massive wealth accumulated by the family of then-Premier Wen Jiabao.
Beijing responded immediately and angrily, blocking the Times website in China and slamming the paper for having "ulterior motives."
The Times says authorities have also refused to issue new journalist visas to several other of its China reporters.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang this week denied Ramzy was "expelled," saying authorities were simply following Chinese law. Qin said Ramzy did not follow proper visa application procedures last year after leaving Time magazine, his previous employer in China.
The New York Times says it filed a visa application for Ramzy in June, but was not alerted to any problems until December, when his visa was about to expire. Although China offered him a one-month temporary visa, the process was not completed in time, and he was forced to leave.
Many of Ramzy's colleagues in the foreign press, who have also complained about restrictions by Chinese authorities, responded sympathetically.
The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China said in a statement Wednesday it "strongly regrets" Ramzy has been forced to leave. It noted it is "difficult to avoid the conclusion that the authorities are punishing the New York Times for articles it published concerning Wen Jiabao and his family," adding this behavior "falls well short of international standards."
Edward Wong, a New York Times correspondent in Beijing, tweeted Thursday that "China is making futile attempts to influence news coverage by blocking journalist visas and global websites."
Although Ramzy was required to leave the country, the Times says his reporting on China will continue, at least temporarily, from Taiwan.
Treatment of American journalists in China has recently strained bilateral relations, which are already exacerbated by Beijing's establishment of air defense zone near internationally disputed islands in the East China Sea.
Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.