New York Times visa gridlock in China loosens a bit
The New York Times is working with Chinese authorities to resolve a diplomatic impasse that prevented the newspaper from bringing new correspondents into the country.
Chinese officials have recently allowed two journalists with The New York Times to take assignments in Beijing, a move that stands in contrast to the country's earlier forbidding stance regarding the flow of correspondents in and out of the country.
Reporter Chris Buckley, who left the country in 2012 before producing a series of scoops for The Times, will resume reporting from China's capital. Javier Hernandez, a foreign reporter, has also been credentialed to enter the country, according to a memo from The New York Times.
The moves are a departure from the normally chilly relationship between the foreign press and Chinese officials, which previously denied travel visas to journalists from The New York Times and Bloomberg. Unable to obtain new visas, Times editors were blocked from exchanging their China-based correspondents with reporters from outside the country. This logjam meant that reporters were under pressure to remain in the country longer then they might otherwise, New York Times international editor Joe Kahn told The Washington Post's Erik Wemple last year:
The visa backlog places each of these correspondents in an unenviable professional position: Should they leave their posts, they can be pretty sure at this point that their editor won’t be able to replace them. So several are hanging on past the New York Times’s standard four-to-five year foreign correspondent term, according to New York Times international editor Joe Kahn. “We’re a little bit hostages,” Kahn tells the Erik Wemple Blog, referring to the professional pickle of his people (and not using “hostage” in any literal sense). "Some of our correspondents are okay with staying longer, others are willing to stay for a little longer but are also thinking about other assignments."
The company is hopeful that other journalists will soon follow Buckley and Hernandez into China, according to a statement from a Times spokesperson:
One of our correspondents has returned to Beijing, and a new correspondent has been allowed to take up his assignment there. We have other applications pending too, and we hope to resume a normal rotation of correspondents in and out of China as soon as possible, including journalists on short-term reporting trips.
The diplomatic snarl followed critical reporting from The New York Times and Bloomberg, which ran separate stories that revealed the families of China's ruling elite held enormous fortunes. A spokesperson for Bloomberg declined to comment on whether the company's reporters has seen any progress in their quest for visas.
Among foreign reporters, China is generally regarded to be a repressive assignment when compared with other international postings. Nearly all respondents to a May survey of the foreign correspondent said that working conditions in the country are "almost never" on par with conditions elsewhere around the globe.
Correction: A previous version of this story said Buckley produced "a series of scoops for The Times" before leaving Beijing. In fact, he has produced scoops since leaving the country in 2012.