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Vice president Joe Biden has expressed concerns about the treatment of U.S. journalists by the Chinese government, after some reporters were threatened with the non-renewal of the journalist visas they need to work in China.
Biden was in Beijing as part of a weeklong tour of Asia, which also includes Japan and South Korea. He engaged with President Xi Jinping for approximately five hours of discussion.
The vice president also met with a number of the U.S. journalists in a bar in a Beijing hotel. While there were no details given of which journalists he met with, it is believed they included reporters from the New York Times and Bloomberg, who may be forced to leave China this month in what some say is retaliation for negative stories about government figures.
Both American news organizations have had their websites blocked in China since late last year, after each published detailed investigative reports exposing the wealth amassed by the relatives of Chinese leaders — including Xi and former premier Wen Jiabao. Journalists at both organizations could face expulsion this month if the visas, which require annual renewal, are not issued.
“Innovation thrives where people breathe freely, speak freely, are able to challenge orthodoxy, where newspapers can report the truth without fear of consequences,” Biden told a gathering of U.S. business executives. “We have many disagreements, and some profound disagreements, on some of those issues right now, in the treatment of U.S. journalists.”
Biden historically has a good relationship with the Chinese government, and last year he helped broker a deal with then-vice president Xi, which led to the increase to 34 films under a quota for Hollywood movies.
Earlier this week, a reporter for Bloomberg was excluded from an event with British prime minister David Cameron and premier Li Keqiang, prompting a protest from Cameron’s staff.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei insisted China’s treatment of foreign journalists complies with the country’s laws and regulations. “Over the past few years, we have provided a very convenient environment for foreign journalists reporting in China,” he said. “Everybody can see the progress we made.”
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