May 20, 2020 – Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns Beijing’s expulsion early May of New York Times correspondent who reported extensively on Covid-19 and urges the Chinese authorities to put an end to visa reprisals against journalists.
Chris Buckley, a foreign correspondent with The New York Times who spent 76 days in Wuhan reporting on the Covid-19 crisis, was forced out of China on May 8th after the authorities refused to renew his visa. The Australian native, based in China for the past 24 years, was personally attacked in recent months by Chinese state media for his reporting on the epidemic, which included how government secrecy delayed the fight against the virus and public anger over the death of whistleblower, Dr. Li Wenliang.
Earlier this year, the Beijing regime expelled 16 journalists working for American media in a move meant as a “reprisal” against the US administration’s decisions earlier this year to reduce the influence of the Chinese state media’s propaganda.
“By reducing the international community’s access to information related to the development of the coronavirus crisis in China, these expulsions of foreign correspondents can only have a negative impact on the global effort to fight the pandemic,” said Cédric Alviani, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) East Asia Bureau head, who urged Beijing to “immediately reinstate Mr. Buckley’s visa and those of other recently expelled foreign correspondents, and to stop using visas to pressure journalists. “
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Chris Buckley was forced out of the country in 2012 when authorities denied his request for a visa renewal, making him wait three years until he could return. In 2019, Buckley also played an integral role in exposing mass detentions of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region.
China consistently practices intimidation, harassment and surveillance against foreign correspondents and their sources, and has since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis been orchestrating an all-out attack campaign against media that publish critical stories linked to the pandemic and China.
China is ranked 177th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.