US places new restrictions on Chinese journalists

The US is placing new restrictions on Chinese news outlets, forcing them to cut nearly half their US-based staff.

The move to limit the number of reporters is being seen as a retaliation for Beijing’s expulsion of two US journalists last month.

Five Chinese state outlets will be forced to reduce their US staff by 40%.

US officials accused China of a crackdown on free speech not seen since the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War.

The US state department said it was hearing of increasing harassment and surveillance of American and other foreign journalists in China.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that five media outlets, including China’s official news agency Xinhua, would be required to reduce their total number of staff to 100 from 160.

The rule change also applies to China Global Television Network, China Daily, China Radio International and the People’s Daily.

People’s Daily will not have to shrink its US staff, because none of its workers are Chinese nationals.

Although the journalists will not be forced to immediately leave the US, their visas are tied to their employment, making it very likely that they must go once they are axed.

Pompeo said the decision did not place any restrictions on what those media outlets could report on in the US.

“It is our hope that this action will spur Beijing to adopt a more fair and reciprocal approach to US and other foreign press in China,” said Mr Pompeo.

“We urge the Chinese government to immediately uphold its international commitments to respect freedom of expression, including for members of the press.”

A US official who spoke on condition of anonymity told reporters the US was making the move in an effort to seek “reciprocity” and a “level playing field”.

The companies have until 13 March to downsize their staffs. US officials noted that only about 75 US journalists are believed to be currently working in China. (Courtesy BBC)