With no word on visas, Canada’s CBC closes China bureau

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BEIJING (AP) — Canadian public broadcaster CBC said it was closing its bureau in China after the Chinese government ignored requests to base a reporter in Beijing.

CBC said its demands were met “with months of silence from Chinese officials.” The broadcaster’s latest correspondent left Beijing as China shut down amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The office, located in one of Beijing’s high-security diplomatic compounds, had remained open in anticipation of staff turnover.

On Thursday, a plaque identifying the office remained posted on the outside wall but no one answered the knocks or the doorbell. Calls to the office number published by the Chinese Foreign Ministry also went unanswered.

China has taken an increasingly hard line in its foreign relations, and ties with Canada crumbled after China, the United States and Canada completed what was effectively a high-stakes prisoner swap. raised last year involving a senior executive at Chinese tech giant Huawei who was charged with fraud. by the United States

China jailed two Canadians shortly after Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies and daughter of the company’s founder, on a US extradition request. They were returned to Canada in September, the same day Meng returned to China after reaching an agreement with US authorities in her case.

Many countries called China’s action a “hostage policy,” while China described the charges against Huawei and Meng as a politically motivated attempt to curb China’s economic and technological development.

Canada has banned mobile carriers from installing Huawei equipment in its high-speed 5G networks, joining allies in avoiding the company which has close ties to the ruling Communist Party and its military wing. People’s Liberation Army.

Canada also ordered three Chinese companies to sell lithium mining assets to Canada after imposing limits on foreign participation in the supply of “critical minerals” used in batteries and high-tech products.

The order came on Wednesday amid growing tension between the West and China over control of sources of lithium, rare earths, cadmium and other minerals used in cellphones, wind turbines, solar cells , electric cars and other emerging technologies.

China has increasingly restricted the presence of foreign media in the country while strengthening its own propaganda presence abroad. This position is consistent with its increasingly confrontational relationship with the United States and Western democracies over trade, human rights and land claims.

China accuses the United States of stoking tensions after Washington scrapped 20 visas issued to Chinese state media journalists and required those who remained to register as foreign agents, among other changes.

China reacted by expelling journalists working for American media and severely restricting the conditions of those who continue to work in the country.

After being denied visas, many foreign media outlets have based correspondents in Taiwan and other Asian hubs that protect free speech.

“There’s no point in keeping an office empty when we could easily set up shop somewhere else in a different country that welcomes journalists and respects journalistic scrutiny,” CBC News editor Brodie Fenlon said Wednesday in a blog post.

“Closing the Beijing office is the last thing we want to do, but our hand has been forced,” Fenlon said.

CBC said Philippe Leblanc, a journalist with Radio-Canada, the broadcaster’s French-language counterpart, would work from the Taiwanese capital, Taipei, after Chinese diplomats ignored his applications.

Canada now joins Australia in no longer having a permanent media presence in China following diplomatic disputes. CBC said it would be the first time in more than 40 years that the broadcaster had no presence in China.

The Asia correspondent of Canada’s main newspaper, the Globe and Mail, is based in Hong Kong because he was unable to obtain a visa for China.

Chinese media is tightly controlled by the Communist Party, and Beijing sees the foreign press as an extension of their home country’s policies, regardless of state ownership and levels of control.

China’s Foreign Ministry did not respond to requests for comment on the visa situation, but spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that due to pandemic travel restrictions, China had canceled the requirement to automatically close. foreign press offices which had been understaffed for more than 10 months.

Zhao also said China facilitated CBC’s coverage of this year’s Winter Olympics. The International Olympic Committee requires host countries to provide these services as part of its contract with them.

“I want to emphasize that we always welcome foreign journalists to work in China in accordance with laws and regulations,” Zhao said during a daily briefing on Thursday.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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