US condemns 'harassment' of foreign journalists in China

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  • The US expressed concern over press freedom in China.
  • Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian criticised the BBC over its flooding reporting.
  • AFP reporters were forced to delete footage in Zhengzhou.


The US is "deeply concerned" over the harassment and intimidation of foreign correspondents covering deadly floods in China, a State Department spokesperson said on Thursday.

READ | Severe rainstorms kill 12 in flooded China subway

His remarks came less than 24 hours after Beijing accused the BBC of broadcasting "fake news" about last week's devastating flooding in the central province of Henan, and as the British broadcaster said its journalists had been subjected to hostility.

"The United States is deeply concerned with the increasingly harsh surveillance, harassment, and intimidation of US and other foreign journalists in the People's Republic of China (PRC), including foreign journalists covering the devastation and loss of life caused by recent floods in Henan," State Department spokesperson Ned Price in a statement.

"The PRC government claims to welcome foreign media and support their work, but its actions tell a different story," Price said.

READ | Chinese city picks through the debris after record rains kill 33

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian had earlier on Thursday called the BBC a "Fake News Broadcasting Company" that has "attacked and smeared China, seriously deviating from journalistic standards".

Harassed

The BBC has said its reporters covering the deluge had been subjected to online vitriol, while other outlets had been harassed on the ground in "attacks which continue to endanger foreign journalists".

The BBC reported on last week's floods in the city of Zhengzhou which left 14 people dead and more than 500 commuters trapped when the city's subway system flooded during rush hour just as sensitivity toward any negative portrayal of China mounts.

Reporters from AFP were forced by hostile Zhengzhou residents to delete footage and were surrounded by dozens of men while reporting on a submerged traffic tunnel.

Zhao on Thursday said foreign correspondents "enjoy an open and free reporting environment in China".

But press freedom groups say the space for overseas reporters to operate is tightening, with journalists followed on the streets, suffering harassment online and refused visas.

In his statement on Thursday, Price urged China to not curtail press access to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

"We call on the PRC to act as a responsible nation hoping to welcome foreign media and the world for the upcoming Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games," his statement said.

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