China says its reporters in India ‘about to drop to zero’ amid mutual expulsions

Beijing has already revoked credentials for three of four China-based Indian correspondents

June 01, 2023 09:03 pm | Updated 09:57 pm IST

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning gestures during a press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing on May 24, 2023.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning gestures during a press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing on May 24, 2023. | Photo Credit: AP

China’s government has said the number of Chinese journalists in India was “about to drop to zero”, amid a string of mutual expulsions of journalists by the two countries.

Chinese authorities have since April 2023 effectively revoked credentials for three of the four Indian reporters accredited in the country. In early April, the Chinese Foreign Ministry “froze” the visas of two Indian correspondents barring their return to China, while last month a third journalist did not have their accreditation renewed, leaving only one active Indian correspondent in China.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said it had taken the measures because “Chinese journalists have suffered unfair and discriminatory treatment in India.”

“The Indian side still has not renewed the visa of the last Chinese journalist in the country,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a briefing in Beijing. “The number of Chinese journalists stationed in India is about to drop to zero. Considering this, the Chinese side has no choice but to take appropriate counter-measures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese media organisations”.

Beijing has suggested that if the last reporter’s credentials were not renewed, it would likely take similar countermeasures on the last accredited Indian reporter, leaving no reporters of the world’s two most populous nations reporting out of the other’s country.

Since China’s “freezing” of the two visas in April, New Delhi and Beijing have been negotiating on the issue of reporters’ visas. Beijing has demanded that India stop issuing three-month visas for its reporters and approve year-long visas for at least half a dozen Chinese reporters.

According to Indian officials, the Ministry of Home Affairs had started reducing the period of visas to three months after reportedly red flagging what it saw as non-journalistic activities of some Chinese State media reporters in India. In 2016, three Chinese reporters with the official Xinhua news agency did not have their visas renewed after two of them visited Tibetan settlements in Karnataka without reportedly applying for the required permits from the Home Ministry and declaring their identities.

The Ministry of External Affairs has not commented on the recent round of expulsions.

The Chinese MFA spokesperson, Mao Ning, said “In 2017, the Indian side shortened the period of validity of visas held by Chinese journalists in India to three months or even one month without any valid reason.” “Since 2020,” Ms. Mao added, “the Indian side has refused to review and approve Chinese journalists’ applications for stationing in India. As a result, the number of Chinese journalists stationed in India has plummeted from 14 at the normal time to just one.”

“As we speak, I would like to stress that China is still willing to maintain communication with India under the principles of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit,” she added. “We hope that India will work in the same direction with China, seriously respond to China’s legitimate concerns, and take concrete steps as soon as possible to create favourable conditions for restoring normal exchange between the media organisations of the two countries.”

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