China: Al Jazeera's Beijing Correspondent Expelled
By Oiwan Lam
Al Jazeera English's Beijing correspondent Melissa Chan's press credential were revoked by the Chinese government on May 8, 2012, resulting in the shutting down of Al Jazeera's English Bureau in Beijing.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei offered little explanation for the expulsion, but online speculation points to Al Jazeera's 2011 documentary “Slavery: An 21st Century Evil”, highly critical of China's labour reeducation system, or the so-called the “state sponsored slavery”, and which features undercover filming from inside China labour reeducation prisons. However, Melissa Chan was not involved in the making of the film.
Isaac Stone Fish, who worked with Chan on the board of the Foreign Correspondent's Club of China, believes that the China government targeted Chan due to her Chinese heritage:
But Chan also fits into the troubling pattern of the foreigners Beijing has targeted over the last decade: those the Chinese government views of having less protection because of their ethnicity and nationality; often with Chinese backgrounds. It appears that someone in the Chinese government wanted to give a warning to journalists without causing an international incident; Chan, a Chinese-American working for a Qatari-based television station, seemed to be an appropriate target. The thinking seems to be that a foreign government will more loudly protest the mistreatment of a citizen who is both born and raised in its own country and working for a domestic company.
The expulsion of @melissakchan is cowardly, childish and pathetic….just what we've come to expect from the Chinese government.
Foreign journalists based in China have expressed serious concerns regarding the Chinese government's attitude. Kathleen McLaughlin wrote on Twitter:
Sad as I am to see @melissakchan go, I hope this exposes China's larger efforts to censor foreign media via visa manipulation.
Mark MacKinnon has has pointed out that the fate of foreign journalists is intertwined with local journalists:
This false freedom given to reporters working in China is much more important than Melissa’s case or the careers of any of the foreign correspondents based in China. What’s at stake is not only the outside world’s (already poor) understanding of this rising but paranoid superpower, but also the future of journalism inside China. Chinese journalists have told me that they watch the foreign correspondents with envy, wishing they could report about their own country as freely as we do. Our fight to do our job is intertwined with their fight to do theirs.
There are relatively few discussions within the Chinese blogosphere. Lao Rong gives an update of the situation in Sina Weibo [zh] and was able to spark some discussion:
@毛聊：Al Jazeera is a third-world media and is independent from western media. If China cannot allow them to operate here, how can we lead the third world?
@看看看看1：In the whole world, only China will make journalists lose their job because they insist on reporting the truth. Those reporters who are expelled by China deserve good career opportunities.
@nurundini：Al Jazeera is more objective when reporting about Chinese government policy than most major media outlets. Some western media even criticize them for being pro-communist. Of course, that wouldn't happen with Associated Press.
赵佑诚：Google didn't want to leave China, but in the end it left.
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