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A journalist is seen filming a conference in Beijing, China, on January 26, 2020. The Chinese government recently ordered the dismissal of local staffers at several U.S. news outlets in Beijing. (Reuters/Thomas Peter)

Beijing dismisses Chinese news assistants working for U.S. bureaus

March 20, 2020 4:09 PM ET

Washington, D.C., March 20, 2020 -- The Chinese government should immediately reverse the dismissals of Chinese employees working for U.S. news organizations in Beijing, and stop creating obstacles to news gathering by foreign outlets in China, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On Thursday and Friday, the Beijing Personnel Service Corporation for Diplomatic Missions ordered at least seven Chinese nationals who work as staffers at U.S. news organizations in Beijing to be dismissed from their jobs, according to several journalists in Beijing, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal by the Chinese government. The order included workers for The New York Times and Voice of America, the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster, as well as two other outlets that could not be immediately identified, according to those journalists. VOA confirmed the dismissal of its Chinese news assistant in a statement sent to CPJ. Steven Lee Myers, the Beijing bureau chief for The New York Times, also confirmed to CPJ via a messaging app that the newspaper's Chinese staff was targeted.

The dismissals come after China announced measures on March 17 that would lead to the expulsion of at least 13 U.S. citizens who worked as correspondents at The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, as CPJ documented at the time.

“China appears determined to crush the news gathering operations of major U.S. outlets in Beijing, this time by taking punishing measures against local Chinese employees,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “This action will not stop the ongoing tit-for-tat between China and the United States, and may escalate it. China should stop trying to control and intimidate foreign news bureaus and allow them to hire Chinese staff freely and directly.”

Foreign news bureaus in China are prohibited by law from directly hiring Chinese citizens as employees and must rely on personnel formally hired by the Personnel Service Corporation, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to the corporation’s website.

Chinese staff perform critical functions at foreign news outlets, providing language and research support, according to those journalists. VOA said its employee provided research and technical services. “VOA regrets the Chinese government has taken this high-handed action to undermine VOA’s news operation in China,” the VOA statement said.

The dismissal of Chinese employees is just the latest in a series of measures taken against journalists and media workers by the U.S. and Chinese governments, as CPJ has documented. Journalists in Beijing expressed concern that the U.S. government might retaliate and further escalate the attacks on journalists.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The text has been modified in the second paragraph to correct the spelling of Steven Lee Myers's name.

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