China on Friday denied reports claiming it had rejected visa to a New York Times correspondent after the newspaper last year published articles critical of the Chinese Premier.

The Foreign Ministry said the former employers of the journalist, who joined NYT in October, had failed to submit the necessary paperwork for his visa, adding that it had not received notification from them saying he had joined the NYT.

The NYT had said on Monday that its correspondent Chris Buckley (45), a veteran Australian journalist who has reported out of China for more than a decade, had to fly out of the country after his visa was not renewed.

The newspaper said the Foreign Ministry had not commented on his departure, leading to suggestions that the move was a punishment for the newspaper’s recent investigation into wealth of the relatives of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

Foreign Ministry sources here, however, pointed out that every other journalist in the NYT’s bureau had their visa renewed, including the journalist who penned the Wen Jiabao article. They faulted the NYT and Mr. Buckley’s earlier employer — the news agency Reuters — for not submitting paperwork on time.

The Ministry hit out at media reports alleging it had expelled the journalist as a punishment, accusing “certain media” of “still looking at China through coloured lenses” and “reporting China with stereotypes”.

The New York Times claims that Chris Buckley is its Beijing-based journalist,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters. “As known to all, Chris Buckley was earlier employed with the news agency [Reuters]. If Buckley wants to leave the news agency, then the agency should submit to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs the relevant formalities before he leaves.”

“But up to now,” she added, “We have not received the relevant notification from the news agency, and Chris Buckley has not returned to us the resident journalist press card issued by the Information Department of the Foreign Ministry. We do not know who Chris Buckley’s employer is at the moment. Therefore this application as journalist of the New York Times did not meet the regulations of the Chinese side. So there is no such thing as the rejection of his visa extension or of Chris Buckley being expelled.”

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