Thu, Mar 30, 2017 | updated 12:31 AM IST

India move not to renew visas of Chinese journalists a first, but Beijing has a history of media expulsions

Updated: Jul 25, 2016 14:47 IST

New Delhi, July 25 (ANI): The Indian Government's move not to renew the visa applications of three Chinese journalists maybe the first instance of New Delhi acting punitively against any country let alone China, which not surprisingly has a history of expelling journalists from other countries on the smallest of pretext.

The Indian Government took the decision of not extending the visas of the three Xinhua News Agency journalists over an alleged suspicion that the latter had impersonated other people to access several restricted departments in Delhi and Mumbai and had also allegedly met with exiled Tibetan activists in violation of existing prohibitive protocol.

While Chinese media has viewed New Delhi's refusal to extend visas as an perceived act of 'revenge' to Beijing's opposition to India's bid to join the elite 48-member state Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) last month, no official reason or explanation has come through the corridors of power in New Delhi.

Lü Pengfei, former India-based special correspondent with China's Global Times, said there is absolutely no need for Chinese journalists in India to conduct interviews under fake names and it is completely normal for reporters to request interviews with the Dalai Lama group.

"In any case, it's not a good thing that India has turned down Chinese reporters' applications for new visas. The act has sent negative messages and media communications between China and India will inevitably be negatively impacted," he said.

He said that complaints about difficulties of acquiring an Indian visa have also been heard from other Chinese who deal with India. In contrast, it's much easier for Indians to get a Chinese visa.

China, on the other hand, has always been accused of harassing, surveillancing and refusing visas to journalists when government officials express anger over their reports.

In May 2012, Al-Jazeera's sole English-language reporter in China, Melissa Chan, was expelled as she was accused of some unspecified violations. This was seen as a hardening of China's attitude toward international media it views as a threat to the authoritarian government's authority and global image.

Again in 2014, the New York Times reporter Austin Ramzy was forced to leave China because of processing delays for his press credentials.

Many reporters of outlets such as the New York Times, Bloomberg, Reuters and Al Jazeera have encountered difficulty obtaining permission to report in China in recent years, as stories by some of these outlets outlining the wealth amassed by the families of senior Chinese leaders, including President Xi's, have proved a major irritant and embarrassment to the Chinese authorities.

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China had released an extensive report in 2013 on the barriers faced by overseas journalists in the country, which said "in 2013 it became patently obvious that Chinese authorities abuse the press card and ... visa renewal process in a political manner."

It's all very well for China's Global Times to say in its editorial that New Delhi faces serious consequences over the visa renewal refusal issue, especially in the context of the NSG membership matter, but New Delhi is unlikely to blink and may just be sending out a message that neutrality and accommodation is the key to taking the bilateral relationship remaining sound and on track, rather than opting for verbal and written blustering.

As the editorial says, "The two (China and India) in general are able to maintain neutrality with regard to international affairs that are related to the other side. But problems emerge when it comes to issues that the two are at odds." (ANI)

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