Home > Analysis, Foreign Relations, General, human rights, media, News, Opinion, politics > China “Withholding” Visas From Foreign Journalists. Plenty of Self-Censorship At Home.

China “Withholding” Visas From Foreign Journalists. Plenty of Self-Censorship At Home.


This is apparently a continuation of an old story of how China is “expelling” foreign journalists en masse.  However, there are some conflicting details in the story itself.

“Withholding” visas means they accepted the applications, but won’t issue the the visas.  However the article later explained, “Chinese authorities had initially accepted resident journalist visa renewal applications from The Times’ reporters. But they stopped doing so — and in some cases returned applications to reporters — after the newspaper ran a report last month detailing ties between JPMorgan Chase and a consultancy in China run by Wen’s daughter.”

If they won’t accept the applications, or return the applications, that’s not “withholding” the visas.  The Applications were just REJECTED for some reason, usually technical.  As previous story on this noted, the Chinese government had explained that the applications were rejected for technical /formality reasons.

That might be nitpicking, but that is actually completely fair.

US Visa application processes have EXACTLY the same arbitrariness.  (Maybe shocking for some Expats to know, but Chinese people who apply for US visas can have their applications rejected WITHOUT any explanations, and WITHOUT any return of fees).

Well, that’s the DEAL.  Many Chinese tourists and immigrants to US had to deal with it.  Not to imply this is some kind of pay back, but seriously, journalists, DEAL with it.  Disruption to your career is nothing compared to what many of us had to go through.

Some in the Western media have suggested that US should retaliate by denying visas to Chinese journalists.  I don’t think Chinese media would care.  (1) A lot of Chinese media companies hire local journalists for their foreign based journalism, unlike Western media companies who feel the strange need to hire “expats” to send all the way to China, (2) Chinese media companies don’t spend that much man power on “investigative” dirt digging in foreign countries, that’s not the same kind of work, (3) Chinese “journalists” are mostly on short term visas, the number of visas just don’t equate to the kind of duration of long term visas for foreign journalists in China.

That sort of “retaliation” suggested simply won’t have the kind of similar impact.

2nd controversy:  The “self-censorship”.

Many Western journalists are complaining about the impact of “visa withholding” on “self-censorship”.

Funny, I don’t recall the outrage of “self-censorship”, when all these same journalists are repeating unquestioning US government statements on every thing from Arab Springs, Iraq War, or even the US government interpretation of Chinese history and Chinese laws.

So, I think plenty of skepticism is allowed when it comes to “journalists” sudden realization of “self-censorship”.

In 1 past instance, a Western Editor working for a Chinese media company admitted openly in an article that he and his Western colleagues refused to run a story, (censoring), because he didn’t agree with what the Chinese media company wanted to write (to his view point “propaganda”).

“Censoring” a story for being “propaganda” to you, is still “censorship”, in case you missed the definition of “censorship”.

And let’s also face it, journalists have plenty of pressure of self-censorship at home.  For example:


Another example:  Guardian Reporter Greenwald.

And need I even mention:  http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/hastings-panicked-email-fbi-death-article-1.1380539

You want to talk about disruptions to your career and your lives?  Wait until you get back to the West.

Which brings me to this point:

I think the lot of the Expat Journalists had it too good in China.  Let’s face it, when you were in China, your editors let you write ridiculous and even silly stories on China, and no one would question your sources.  No one at your work place cared.  If you make up BS, (and we know there were plenty), you got away with it, because you were the “China hand”.  If the Chinese media or the Chinese government called on your BS, it only made you look good, because you would say the evil Chinese were trying to suppress your story.

You had your fun, running amok in China.  And you made a name for yourself.

But we also know that that’s why you really don’t want to go home.  Because you realized, if you go home, you WILL be subjected to RULES/standards of journalism that you were not subjected to when you were in China (“self-censorship” as you called it).

Well, I think it’s good for you that the era of BS journalism in China is over.  You don’t have to worry about “self-censorship” now you won’t be in China.  You just have to deal with a different kind of “self-censorship” at home, which I’m sure you will get comfortable with very quickly.

  1. December 10th, 2013 at 11:56 | #1

    You brought up a good point about US visa procedures. I think one aspect of these journalists that I find really arrogant is their sense of entitlement. They act as if they have some inherent, inviolable right to enter/exit other countries as they please.

    NO ONE is ENTITLED to enter another sovereign country that’s not your own. The US reserves the right to reject anyone’s visa application for any reason (or non-reason). The PRC, and any other sovereign country, has the same right.

  2. Black Pheonix
    December 11th, 2013 at 07:37 | #2


    Here is a good list of visa rejection rates. Guess what, US rejects a lot of visa applications. In most categories, around 20% get rejected.

    the “I” category, for official journalists, gets rejected about 12% of the time.

  3. Black Pheonix
    December 12th, 2013 at 10:45 | #3

    many US journalists are calling on US government to retaliate.

    Even when 1/2 of them polled believe that a retaliation would not have much impact on China’s journalists in US, many still suggests that the “mere threat” of retaliation or delay would get Chinese government’s attention and get them to back down. (Because they believe how high the Chinese government places for value of expanding “soft power”).

    I think the Western journalists indeed have been smoking too much of some thing when they lived in China.

    Let’s not get all delusional about what “soft power” means, it’s not a political slogan that will convince any rational person/governments to allow in “guests” who are whiny and unruly and like to talk trash in one’s home.

  4. December 14th, 2013 at 01:18 | #4

    VISA is important business – and the U.S. means it – that as well as miniminum wage laws. It’s so serious it will arrest diplomats who commits fraud in visa applications … and who underpays their domestic workers under the rate dictated by local minimum wage laws.

    See. e.g. http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/india-summons-us-ambassador-to-protest-diplomat-being-handcuffed-458396.

  5. Black Pheonix
    December 17th, 2013 at 11:47 | #5


    Yeah, that’s really arrogant action by US. They arrested that Indian diplomat in PUBLIC, while she was dropping off her daughter at school! Then subjected her to strip search and locking her up with common criminals! (Never heard of courtesy phone calls, to come down to answer some questions?)

    That is pretty outrageous. No wonder India is so p*ssed about this. It does show to India the imbalance of their relationship with US.

    and here China is, NOT actually “expelling” any journalists, instead waiting for case by case on visa applications, for months. And then wait patiently for them to leave on their own. (Even when tons of them are running around without proper visas for journalists, working while on tourist visas).

  6. Black Pheonix
    December 17th, 2013 at 11:59 | #6


    This is blowing up into a full scale diplomatic spat sh*t storm. With India now withdrawing all diplomatic privileges for US diplomats and families. Indian politicians are even discussing retaliations, such as publicly arresting all homosexual US diplomats (along with their companions) in India.

    Wow. Way to go, US “soft power”! Didn’t take very long before that Keystone Cop routine brought down the whole facade of nice Western Democracy.

  7. Black Pheonix
    December 17th, 2013 at 12:04 | #7



    I mean this couldn’t possibly be in a more bad timing.

    Just as India went through the whole “rape” shaming thing, now US NYC cops subject a female Indian diplomat, (a pretty good looking one at that), to jail house strip search??!!

    I think that’s wrong on so many different levels.

  8. Black Pheonix
    December 17th, 2013 at 12:07 | #8

    Funny bit, some Indian commenters wrote, “US wouldn’t dare do this to a Chinese diplomat.”

    Oh, it’s funny how wrong some people can be. (Because Texas cops chased after and arrested a Chinese diplomat once, even when he was driving an embassy vehicle).

  9. Black Pheonix
    December 17th, 2013 at 12:37 | #9

    Talk about all out tit-for-tat, http://www.chinadailyasia.com/news/2013-12/17/content_15106675.html.

    India retaliates against US by removing concrete security barriers outside of US embassy.

    Why is this bad? When you anticipate a possible nationalistic protest, you ADD barriers to embassies, NOT remove them!

    In this scenario, if an angry Indian nationalist mob protests in front of the US embassy, the US embassy would be laid bare to protesters getting close to throw things and climb walls.

    Boy, talk about really bitter response. Would China remove barriers in front of Japanese embassies??

  10. Black Pheonix
    December 17th, 2013 at 13:19 | #10

    It’s worse: http://www.rediff.com/news/report/diplomats-arrest-trouble-was-brewing-since-june/20131217.htm

    Apparently, India had decided that it was a dispute that should be handled in India, but US decided to interfere any ways.

  11. Black Pheonix
    December 17th, 2013 at 19:27 | #11

    News cycle on this story just get worse:

    ALL Indian parties (~100 of them?) united in hostility toward US on this one, apparently out to draw blood.

    (There must be some serious pent up anger against US? For it to get this bad so quickly? On 1 incident?!)

    I mean seriously,

    CONTRAST, 2010, Texas police chased down a Chinese diplomat and his wife in their Diplomatic car, INTO a Chinese consulate garage, ARRESTS the diplomat, roughs him up in front of his wife (and cause injury serious enough to get into a hospital).

    Over what? 1 Missing license plate (the Car had the other license plate in the front, which would have taken less than a few seconds to check, and the diplomat identified himself to the police).

    Well, that was 2010, China’s indignation didn’t rise up to any where near the current Indian level of fury (against a supposed friend US no less).

    *Now India is on full retaliation mode. Every Indian politician is out there making more outlandish suggestions on how to snub the Americans.

    (1) arrest gay partners of US diplomats.
    (2) investigate all US diplomats’ families, (particularly their employment and taxes in India).
    (3) investigate all household employees of US diplomats.
    (4) investigate misc. criminal records, sexual deviancy of US diplomats and families.

    India’s message: Indian Pride (which I sympathize with completely).

    Western media (even some HR organizations) have come out to excuse the US, saying that what NY police did was proper according to procedure (Yes, we heard the same about the incident in 2010 involving the Chinese diplomat).

    Even suggested the deeper problem is how Indian government elites are mistreating their domestic help.

    Yeah, OK, like US diplomats are saints in other countries. (Bush era US diplomats in Thailand were actually caught running a pedophile ring).

    *India, welcome to the US “ally” club, because you didn’t really join the club, until US F*ed you over at least once in public.

    But you are still Newbie. You still think if you raged they might listen to you. That’s just naive.

    Your problem was, your diplomat tried to play the game their way hoping to get away with your way. You can’t fool them, they are just waiting for you to trip up. (Even with 1 missing license plate).

    Don’t get mad (in public), just get even (in private). Get your benefit, and screw them, (because you know now that they would screw you in a heart beat).

    And then, watch them whine and complain about how unfair it is (and pretend how shocked they were at your betrayal).

    When it comes down to it, no “friendship” is fair. 1 friend is always short changed in the relationship. You just have to realize it and prevent yourself from becoming that short changed.

    The oldest “friendship” organization in history: A hierarchy dominated by an Alpha-male. There is no “equality” in that one.

  12. Black Pheonix
    December 18th, 2013 at 07:49 | #12

    BTW, India is the 2nd most dangerous country for journalists. http://www.dawn.com/news/1037107/india-second-most-dangerous-country-for-journalists-in-2013-after-syria-report

    Now, China could investigate all the journalists (as much as India is investigating US diplomats).

    But perhaps the Journalists would feel better about working in India, a “democracy”.

  13. Black Pheonix
    December 18th, 2013 at 10:43 | #13

    Jump on Reddit, and see all the CIA sock puppets running to India diplomat related comments to pundit derogatory comments on India.

    It’s like the “Great Migration of the Sock Puppets”.

  14. February 6th, 2014 at 18:59 | #14

    Here is an article that gives some more details of why a NYT reporter has been denied Visa. Short version: because the reporter has knowingly broken visa rules.


    The New York Times applied for a journalist accreditation in China for U.S. national Austin Ramzy in the middle of last year, after he left Time magazine.

    Ramzy remained in the country on the visa that he had received while working for Time, which was valid until the end of 2013. Chinese authorities then issued him a 30-day visa, valid until January 30, ostensibly to give him enough time to prepare to leave the country.

    Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Ramzy informed them in May that he was no longer working for Time magazine and he handed back his government-issued press card, which foreign reporters are required to have to report legally in the country.

    “But Austin Ramzy did not, in accordance with Chinese regulations, apply to other Chinese departments to change his visa type and his residence permit type, which previously was for Time,” Qin told a daily news briefing.

    “Regretfully, Austin Ramzy did not do this, and he continued to use his existing residence permit to come and go from China. So his actions were in contravention of China’s rules,” he added.

    Residence permits in China are contingent upon employment, and foreign nationals are supposed to leave the country when they no longer work for the organization which sponsored their residence permit, or else convert to another visa type.

    Ramzy declined to comment when reached by Reuters, and the New York Times did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

    “The NY Times, following rules, handed Foreign Ministry a visa application for Austin Ramzy last June. They have not approved it,” Edward Wong, acting Beijing bureau chief for the Times, said on Twitter.

    Qin said that both the New York Times and Ramzy had admitted to the Foreign Ministry to contravening China’s rules, and that the ministry had granted Ramzy a visa valid until the end of January to give him time to sort out personal affairs.

  15. Black Pheonix
    February 7th, 2014 at 08:50 | #15


    1 thing that nobody is mentioning is that NO country is obligated to explain reasons for rejecting visa application. US routinely do not explain why they reject even common tourist visas.

    NY Times complained that the Chinese government’s rejection of some reporters’ visas are arbitrary, because the Chinese government does not explain them.

    Well, that’s just load of BS. Chinese government doesn’t have to explain them. NY Times’ expectation of explanation is entirely unreasonable and irrational.

    NY Times also complained that the Chinese visa rules are vague and applied rather selectively.

    Well, most visa rules are vague. That’s why so many people are still getting rejected every year by US government too. If it was that clear, those who know they would get rejected would never have bothered to waste their non-fundable application fees.

    Applied selectively? Sure. But perhaps the Chinese government shouldn’t be so nice to allow the other journalists from other news papers to stay. OK. But you know what? The Chinese government is allowed to be nicer to some. It’s called “discretionary authority”. They also don’t have to be nice to those who are not nice to them.

  16. Black Pheonix
    February 11th, 2014 at 11:49 | #16


    Another point is that “journalist visas” are “non-immigrant visas”, intended for short term stay only, (same as in US).

    Too many Western journalists have been abusing the “journalist visa” in China, flaunting the laws as they come and go.

    1 previous US journalist, Paul Mooney, stayed in China for 18 years on such a journalist visa. (It’s amazing that he actually expected for more renewal of that visa).

    If someone tried to pull that on US immigration, he would have been detained and deported (and probably barred from ever entering US).

    It’s classic “non-immigrant visa fraud and abuse”, i.e. you know you want to stay for LONG term, but you decided to claim you only need short term visas (out of convenience, etc.)

    1 US company, Infosys was fined by US government $34 million for similar visa abuses, in sponsoring short term B-1 visitor visas for people who should have been classified as H1 type workers.


Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.