Canada’s public broadcaster said it has closed its China news bureau after more than 40 years of operating in the country, saying their journalist’s “repeated requests” for a work visa had been ignored. 

CBC News Editor-in-Chief Brodie Fenlon wrote in a blog post on Wednesday that the China correspondent for French-language counterpart Radio-Canada had not received a visa since applying in October 2020.

Brodie Fenlon
CBC News Editor-in-Chief Brodie Fenlon. Photo: ONA.

“Despite numerous exchanges with the Chinese consulate in Montreal and requests for meetings over the last two years, there is still no visa,” Fenlon wrote.

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

CBC’s closure of its China news bureau follows the mass expulsion of over a dozen journalists from American media outlets in March 2020 in a US-China tit-for-tat, after which it has been increasingly difficult for foreign reporters to obtain Chinese visas.

Since 2020, the number of new foreign correspondent visas has dried up dramatically, with wait times for a new one typically lasting several months.

Beijing cites pandemic border controls for the delays in awarding new visas. 

journalism National People's Congress npc beijing great hall
Photo: Lukas Messmer/HKFP.

Independent Chinese media is virtually non-existent due to local regulations, leaving foreign journalists to report on sensitive topics under difficult conditions.

Foreign media journalists regularly encounter state harassment and surveillance in their reporting activities, as well as denial of access to official events.

“As the number of journalists forced out by the Chinese state grows due to excessive intimidation or outright expulsions, covering China is increasingly becoming an exercise in remote reporting,” the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China said in its 2022 report.

CBC’s last Beijing correspondent, Sasa Petricic, returned to Canada after China locked down over the Covid-19 pandemic, and the broadcaster has only been able to return once for the February 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, the note said.

For the next two years, the CBS and Radio-Canada correspondent Philippe Leblanc will instead work from Taiwan, Fenlon said.

“We hope China will someday open up again to our journalists,” he wrote. 

China ranked 175th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ 2022 Media Freedom Index.

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