Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the State Department on February 25, 2020, in Washington, D.C. The department recently labeled five Chinese state media outlets as "foreign missions." (AP/Andrew Harnik)
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the State Department on February 25, 2020, in Washington, D.C. The department recently labeled five Chinese state media outlets as “foreign missions.” (AP/Andrew Harnik)

U.S. reclassifies 5 Chinese state media organizations as ‘foreign missions’

On February 18, 2020, the U.S. State Department said in an official press briefing that five Chinese state-funded news agencies–Xinhua News Agency, China Global Television Network, China Radio International, China Daily Distribution Corporation, and Hai Tian Development USA–are controlled by the Chinese government and will be treated as “foreign missions,” a designation typically used for embassies and consulates.

Foreign missions are regulated under the 1982 Foreign Mission Act, according to a report by the New York Times. The new classification will require the media organizations to report employees’ names and personal details, as well as staff turnover, to the State Department’s Office of Foreign Missions, the briefing transcript stated. It will also require the media organizations to inform the department of any property that the organizations own or lease, according to the transcript.

The State Department said it would not inhibit the media organizations’ abilities to report freely, according to the transcript. The department referred CPJ to its public liaison office, which then did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment sent via email.

The day after the new classifications were made public, China announced that it would expel three Wall Street Journal reporters based in Beijing–deputy bureau chief Josh Chin, reporter Chao Deng, and reporter Philip Wen–in retaliation for a headline published on February 3 in the paper’s editorial section titled “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia,” as CPJ documented at the time. Chin and Deng are U.S. citizens, and Wen is Australian, according to CPJ research.

U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo issued a statement condemning the journalists’ expulsion, saying, “The correct response is to present counter arguments, not restrict speech.”

In February 2019, the U.S. government required some Chinese media outlets, including China Global Television Network, to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires outlets to submit activity reports to the Justice Department, as CPJ documented. The China Daily newspaper has been registered under the act since 1983, according to FARA listings.

During the briefing February 18 briefing, State Department officials said that the Vietnam News Agency was registered as a “foreign mission” approximately five years ago.