U.S. criticizes China as journalist forced to leave

Washington urges China to unblock U.S. media websites and eliminate other curbs on press freedom

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The White House criticized Thursday China’s restrictions on press freedom after a New York Times journalist was forced to leave the country.

The departure Thursday of Austin Ramzy came despite Vice President Joe Biden last month raising with China’s leader Xi Jinping the problems faced by journalists working for U.S. news organizations.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the U.S. is “very disappointed” over Ramzy and remains concerned several other U.S. journalists have waited months or years for a decision on their press credentials and visas.

Carney also urged China to unblock U.S. media websites and eliminate other restrictions on journalists, including on travel. He said in some cases, journalists face violence at the hands of local authorities.

“These restrictions and treatment are not consistent with freedom of the press - and stand in stark contrast with U.S. treatment of Chinese and other foreign journalists,” he said in a statement.

Ramzy is the second Times reporter in 13 months to leave the mainland over visa issues, as China intensifies efforts to control foreign media coverage. That appears to reflect wariness about foreign coverage seeping into the domestic audience and sensitivity about the country’s reputation abroad - particularly over reports about the wealth accumulated by relatives of top Communist Party leaders.

China last week blocked access on the mainland to the websites of several European and North American news outlets that carried reports of an investigation that showed the relatives of China’s president and other business and political leaders were linked to offshore tax havens.

Police and plainclothes security officers have harassed reporters in Beijing covering the trials of dissident and activists. Foreign reporters also generally deal with official intimidation of interviewees as well as bars on going to Tibet or troubled parts of ethnic minority regions.

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