Peking ejects 'biased' foreign reporter

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The Independent Online
TERESA POOLE

Peking

The Chinese government is expelling a foreign journalist by refusing to renew his annual press credentials, despite protests from three European governments including the German Foreign Minister.

In the latest signal that China's hard-liners are confident enough to ignore international opinion, a resident German journalist has been told to leave China by Thursday next week. Henrik Bork, the Peking bureau chief for the Frankfurter Rundschau since January 1992, was told by officials that his reporting was "aggressive, biased and attacked people and personalities".

The Foreign Ministry spokesman, Chen Jian, yesterday failed to supply any reasons for forcing Mr Bork to leave Peking - and indeed denied that he was being expelled. "I think all of you know that expulsion is entirely different from no extension for visa," he said. Press accreditation is a pre-requisite for renewing a visa.

The allegations appear to date back to articles last year just before the visit by the Prime Minister, Li Peng, to Germany. Mr Bork described how Mr Li ducked questions about his role in the June 1989 Tiananmen massacre and compared him to a "dictator". During his visit, Mr Li was acutely embarrassed by human rights demonstrators and furious at Chinese officials for failing to guard against possible protests. Mr Bork yesterday said he believed he was being made a scapegoat for the diplomatic fiasco.

Diplomats and journalists were stunned that China would throw out a German journalist given Bonn's close relations with Peking and the recent visit of Chancellor Helmut Kohl. The German Foreign Minister, Klaus Kinkel, wrote to his Chinese counterpart, Qian Qichen, warning that an expulsion could reduce public support for Bonn's "straight and forward-looking China policies". The letter received no reply.

Mr Bork is the first resident foreign journalist to be thrown out of China since September 1991, when the then Peking correspondent of the Independent, Andrew Higgins, was expelled for obtaining an internal government report.

The expulsion is the latest Chinese action to receive condemnation abroad. In Peking last week, the prominent dissident, Wei Jingsheng, was sentenced to 14 years in jail.

China appears to believe that its lure to foreign businessmen now outweighs any risk of international retaliation for defying world opinion.

No journalist can live in China without accreditation from the Foreign Ministry, which must be renewed annually. Reporters who displease the authorities are summoned by the Foreign Ministry and warned about their "negative" articles. Accreditation is often denied to newspapers who have displeased the authorities.

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