China Insists Times Reporter Was Not Forced to Leave Country

Posted January 3rd, 2013 at 6:55 am (UTC-5)
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China says it is still considering the visa application of a New York Times journalist who the paper says was forced to leave the country because of delays in accreditation.

The Times says veteran China correspondent Chris Buckley “was forced to leave mainland China” after authorities declined to issue him a visa by the end of the year, despite numerous requests.

The Chinese foreign ministry on Thursday rejected that charge. It denied that his visa had been rejected and insisted it is inaccurate to say he was deported, but gave no further details.

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China said Thursday it “strongly regrets” that Buckley was forced to leave, saying Beijing's lack of clarity “inevitably raises suspicions” that the Times is being punished for its coverage of China.

Chinese authorities blocked the Chinese and English websites of the Times in October, after it published a story detailing the massive alleged wealth of the family of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

While news reporting on corruption is increasingly common in China, the government reacts nervously to allegations against its top leaders.

It has placed increasing pressure on foreign news organizations and journalists, in what many observers say is an attempt to curb the critical reporting.

Just months earlier, China responded similarly to the reporting of Bloomberg News, which published an investigation into the riches of the Communist Party's new leader, Xi Jinping.

In May, Al-Jazeera journalist Melissa Chan, who had reported on China's network of extralegal detention centers, was forced to leave the country after the Chinese government failed to renew her credentials.