CPJ Urges China to Reinstate
Visas to Radio Free Asia

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New York, N.Y., June 23, 1998--The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) urged China's President Jiang Zemin today to take immediate action to restore the visas of three Radio Free Asia journalists who were denied permission to accompany President Clinton on his state visit to China.

The withdrawal of visas from the Washington-based journalists of the U.S.-owned Radio Free Asia "constitutes a serious breach of press freedom," said CPJ's executive director William A. Orme, Jr. "As an organization dedicated to the defense of press freedom worldwide, CPJ sees the action by your government as further evidence that China shows little respect for the role of a free press." Radio Free Asia often reports on human rights abuses in China.

The text of CPJ's letter to President Jiang follows:

"The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is greatly alarmed by your government's withdrawal of visas from three Washington-based reporters scheduled to cover President Bill Clinton's state visit to China this week. The action constitutes a serious breach of press freedom. We urge you in the strongest possible terms to immediately reinstate the visas of the three Radio Free Asia journalists: reporter Arin Basu, producer Patricia Hindman and Mandarin-language broadcaster Feng Xiaoming.

"It has also been reported that visas to cover the visit have been denied to two Hong Kong-based publications, Next magazine and the newspaper Apple Daily, whose owner, Jimmy Lai, has long been a target of harassment by Beijing.

"The three journalists for the U.S.-owned Radio Free Asia were initially granted visas by the Chinese Embassy in Washington on Friday, June 19, as part of the large press contingent traveling to Beijing to cover President Clinton's nine-day visit to China, which is scheduled to begin tomorrow. Embassy officials withdrew the visas the day after they were issued, and the three were unable to leave today with other journalists to cover the visit. President Clinton has called the visa action 'highly objectionable.'

"China's record on press freedom has long been a source of concern. Reporters and editors are unable to report freely on a wide variety of topics. At least nine journalists remain in jail in China while many others practice self-censorship or follow narrow political guidelines. Today's action shows that necessary reforms in China's culture of secrecy and press control have yet to occur.

"As an organization dedicated to the defense of press freedom worldwide, CPJ sees the action by your government as further evidence of China's disregard for the role of a free press. By refusing entry to these journalists, China has put politics ahead of free expression because of its objection to Radio Free Asia's programming. The action calls into question the very basis of President Clinton's attempt to forge a meaningful dialogue with Beijing on human rights and other issues. We therefore respectfully urge your excellency to do everything within your power to restore the visas of the three journalists from Radio Free Asia, and to allow Apple Daily and Next to cover the Clinton visit."