In a surprising move, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) decided to “freeze” the visas of two Indian journalists based in Beijing, indicating that more “counter measures” could follow against other Indian journalists, unless New Delhi offers reciprocal visa and tenure terms to Chinese journalists in India.
On Tuesday, a Chinese MFA official informed The Hindu’s Beijing correspondent Ananth Krishnan as well as the Prasar Bharati correspondent Anshuman Mishra, both of whom are presently in India, that they should not return to China as their journalistic visas had been “frozen”.
Two other journalists belonging to the news agency PTI and the Hindustan Times, who are at present in China, have been informed that the MFA is considering its options and “counter measures” against what it claims is India’s unfair treatment of Chinese journalists. China is reportedly demanding more visas for its correspondents to cover India. It is also asking for current visa tenures, that need to be renewed every three months, to be increased to 12-month visas, as the Chinese MFA provides Indian journalists with year-long visas.
The MEA declined to comment formally on the move. However, sources denied that India had taken any action against Chinese journalists in the recent past. They said that many Chinese reporters based in Delhi had left during the Covid pandemic and not returned, and it was “factually incorrect” to suggest any “measures” that merited “counter-measures” had been employed against them. MEA sources also pointed out that there are still some Chinese journalists with valid Indian visas, who could report from India if they so wished. In addition, the sources said that Chinese journalists had been facilitated to cover the G-20 Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Delhi and a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting in Varanasi.
From about a dozen correspondents a decade ago, there were only about four Chinese journalists based in India by the end of 2022. In 2016, India had expelled three journalists belonging to State media network Xinhua after security agencies accused them of “indulging in activities beyond their journalistic brief”. Since then, the rift in India-China ties has grown, especially after the standoff between the armies of the two countries over Chinese troops’ transgressions along the Line of Actual Control in April 2020.
The matter is reportedly now being discussed between the Indian Embassy in Beijing and the Chinese MFA.