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Journalists’ visa restrictions to be eased by US, China after Biden-Xi meeting

The deal addresses a source of contention in strained bilateral relations following a lengthy virtual meeting between Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping on Monday.

Under the agreement, the two governments will increase the validity of journalist visas to one year instead of the current three months. Authorities will also make these visas eligible for multiple entries, allowing journalists to travel abroad.

The People’s Republic of China has pledged to allow American journalists already in the country to “leave and return freely, which they had not been able to do before,” a department official said on Tuesday. American state. “We plan to facilitate a similar treatment.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said China will lift visa restrictions once the United States does.

“We hope that the United States will honor its commitment and implement the relevant measures and policies as soon as possible,” Zhao said at a press conference in Beijing. “This hard-earned result is in the interests of the media on both sides and should be cherished.”

The two sides also pledged to resume issuing new journalists’ visas, a process largely interrupted after the Chinese government expelled scores of American journalists in early 2020. Beijing insisted it was forced to fight back after former President Trump’s administration designated U.S. branches of the Chinese state media. as “foreign missions” and capped the number of Chinese journalists working for these media in the United States.

American news organizations affected by the Chinese deportations included the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

“We have remained in close consultation with the affected outlets facing staff shortages, and we are delighted that their correspondents can return to the PRC to continue their important work,” said the US State Department official. It is not clear whether the expelled journalists will be able to return or whether a new group of journalists will be allowed to enter China.

“We welcome this progress but consider it simply as initial steps,” added the US official. “We will continue to work to expand access and improve conditions for US and foreign media, and we will continue to advocate for media freedom as a reflection of our democratic values.”

AG Sulzberger, publisher of the New York Times, said in a statement Wednesday that the company welcomed “any initiative by the Chinese and US governments to allow journalists to do the important job of educating the public.”

“We believe that both countries will benefit from freer access to news and information about the other,” he said. “And we hope these first steps will be followed by further steps to ensure that independent news agencies are able to provide free and robust coverage from inside China.”

Almar Latour, editor of the Wall Street Journal and CEO of Dow Jones & Co, said they are “encouraged by the announced direction of these negotiations and continue to believe that independent and accurate reporting from China serves our readers and serves our readers. China itself. “

The Washington Post did not respond to a request for comment.

Chinese state media first reported the journalist visa agreement. This came as a surprise, as a senior Biden administration official told reporters after the leaders’ meeting that this issue was not raised during their conversation.

A spokesperson for the US Embassy in Beijing on Wednesday called the agreement a result of pressure exerted by US officials on their Chinese counterparts over media access and visa issues “through working channels. in recent months ”.

– CNN’s Beijing office contributed to this report.