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China Restricting Foreign Media Access, Often in the Name of COVID

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Earlier this month, The Foreign Correspondence Club of China (FCCC), the professional association of foreign journalists in China, released a report entitled Zero COVID, Many Controls: Covering China in 2022. The report details many ways in which China restricted press freedom in 2022, including by using COVID as a pretext. The report features survey results of foreign correspondents, discussed below.

Barriers in Accessing China

Foreign correspondents had several issues with gaining access to China generally, according to the report. Fifty-six percent of foreign bureaus noted delays in receiving J-1 visas for their correspondents. Chinese authorities told sixty percent of the correspondents that did not receive a visa that it was delayed due to “geopolitical tensions.” Thirty-eight percent of respondents claimed that their bureaus lacked sufficient staff because of an inability to bring in reporters. Twenty-four percent of respondents experienced harassment or delay entering China, while 10 percent experienced the same when leaving China.

COVID as Excuse for Denying Access

Chinese authorities often used COVID as a pretext to deny foreign correspondents access in China, according to the report. Sixty-three percent of respondents claimed that Chinese authorities used COVID prevention as a reason to deny them access, even though authorities did not use those same measures on Chinese citizens. Approximately 42 (41.5) percent of respondents claimed that COVID was used to cancel their reporting trips at least four times. Forty-six percent of respondents were either denied access or told to leave somewhere in China under the pretext of health and safety, while those respondents were not considered a risk under China’s standards. Forty-seven percent of respondents experienced travel issues due to China’s healthcode system. Twenty-one percent of respondents experienced lockdowns which prevented their reporting.

Threatening Chinese Sources and Colleagues

The report discussed the CCP’s harassment of and threats to foreign correspondents’ Chinese sources. Thirty-eight percent of respondents had Chinese sources that had been in some way harassed or called in for questioning, up from 25 percent of respondents in 2021. The report also claimed that “multiple respondents” stated that their Chinese sources had been told by police not to speak to foreign journalists.

Additionally, 45 percent of respondents claimed that their Chinese colleagues were harassed in 2022, an increase from 40 percent in 2021. Forty-six percent of respondents stated that they had prepared resources to support and reassure their Chinese colleagues.

Surveillance

Eighty-five percent of respondents believed that their communications were “possibly or definitely compromised” on WeChat by government authorities, compared with 72 percent who felt the same with their phone calls, and 61 percent who believed that their office of home was bugged. Forty-one percent of respondents “regularly” feared surveillance was compromising their reporting and their ability to interview and communicate with sources. Thirty-six percent of respondents believed that their internet accounts had been hacked.

Additionally, fifty-seven percent of respondents claimed that they were followed during their reporting, and 45 percent reported that Chinese security had monitored their interviews. Half of respondents attested to disruptions by authorities during their interviews, and 18 percent claimed to have been detained during reporting.

CCP’s Response to the Report

The CCP’s criticism of the report was swift and harsh. One Global Times article called the FCCC “an illegal organization” that has engaged in “strong ideological prejudice and malicious smearing.” An article in China Daily called the reports of “travel restrictions” claims during COVID-19 “risible.”

The Global Times article mentioned above also quizzically claimed that the report failed to mention “the massive help and convenience that China provides for foreign journalists…” and that “[i]n fact, compared with the US and the West, China is quite tolerant of legal and compliant journalists in China…” Another Global Times article similarly opined that “China has always welcomed foreign media to report about the country in a comprehensive and objective way…” and that “China has also been providing support and convenience for international journalists to report about China in accordance with international practices and laws.”

The FCCC report shows a concerted effort by the CCP to suppress foreign media in China. Often this obstruction is explained away by safety concerns related to COVID. Suppression of truth is a common weapon of the CCP, as demonstrated with its narratives combating the lab-leak theory and charges of humans rights violations in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Tibet. The CCP’s hamstringing of foreign journalists gives further evidence that it cannot be trusted.

 

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China

Border Patrol Council President concerned over ‘influx’ of military-aged Chinese men crossing the southern border

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According to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol data Border Patrol agents detained over 30,000 Chinese individuals for illegally crossing the border from January to November 2023, sparking concern.

Just The News reports that National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd on Wednesday said the United States should be incredibly concerned by the influx of military-aged Chinese men coming across the southern border.

“Why are we seeing this influx?” Judd asked on the “Just the News, No Noise” TV show. “At best, they’re just coming here for a better life or for a better job. At worse, they’re coming here to be part of the Chinese government, and that’s what scares me an awful lot.”

“We know that the Chinese have huge gangs here in the United States, and they control certain parts of our country,” he later said. “They control the drug flow. They control the prostitution. They control everything that’s illegal in certain portions of the country. We have to look into that. It’s very important that we understand why we are having so many people from China, especially military-aged men, from China.”

“I don’t want to cause mass hysteria where United States citizens are violent towards people from China,” Judd said. “However, we have to … allow the intelligence community to do their job. We’ve got to let law enforcement do their job and look into these individuals.”

Many Chinese immigrants are leaving due to economic conditions in China and its strict lockdowns, Yahoo News reported.

“Again, at best, they’re here for a better life,” Judd said. “At worst, they’re here to be part of the Chinese government to infiltrate our own country.”

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