China expels journalist on secrets charge

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The Independent Online
THE CHINESE government has expelled a German journalist and banned him from returning to the mainland for five years.

Jurgen Kremb, the accredited Peking correspondent for Der Spiegel, said he had been given 48 hours to leave the country after earlier being served with an arrest warrant, which charged him with possessing "state secrets".

Mr Kremb, 41, said state security officials had come to his office yesterday. "They stormed into my office, pressed me against the wall, shouted at me and read a document in Chinese saying I had a bad attitude and accusing me of violating the law," he said. The arrest warrant had been delivered the previous day.

Mr Kremb, a long-time Peking resident, has reported extensively on China's dissidents and is close to the family of Wei Jingsheng, the exiled political activist. It is the second time within weeks that a foreign journalist has been thrown out. Last month, a Japanese reporter from the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper was ordered to leave after being accused of buying state secrets.

Such expulsions are usually interpreted as Peking's warning to resident reporters to watch their step. Three years ago another German journalist was forced to leave when China refused to renew his visa and press credentials after articles critical of Li Peng, then prime minister. In 1991, The Independent's correspondent, Andrew Higgins, was expelled.

In this latest case, the Chinese authorities seemed to have wanted to make a point. Mr Kremb was due to finish his posting at the end of December, and had already moved his family to Singapore. So China could have quietly let him leave, and then later refused to issue him with any visiting visas.

The Foreign Ministry said yesterday: "Kremb illegally possessed secret Chinese documents in violation of the law." In practice, almost anything can be classified as "secret".