China’s Foreign Ministry said Monday that New York Times reporter Austin Ramzy violated residence visa rules and he is expected to leave the country before the end of this week, a case likely to further agitate already rocky relations between Beijing and Washington.
Earlier this month, most reporters at The Times and Bloomberg facing expulsion from China were issued renewed visas after a months-long standoff between the Chinese government and Western media outlets.
Ramzy, a former Time magazine journalist who has been reporting out of China for over six years, was an exception. He wasn’t given press accreditation or a permanent visa since he joined The Times, but was issued a 30-day visa valid until the end of January. It was acknowledged that he would likely be forced to leave.
Ramzy is the second Times correspondent in the past 13 months to leave the country because of an unprocessed visa application. Chris Buckley, a veteran China reporter, was forced to leave at the end of 2012 when he left Reuters to work for The Times. He now works from Hong Kong.
Philip P. Pan, the Time’s Beijing bureau chief also living in Hong Kong, and several other employees of Bloomberg News were also declined journalist visas.
The Western journalists are believed to be the target of retaliation from China’s government, ruffled as a result of the 2012 reports published by The Times and Reuters revealing secret wealth accumulated by family members of China’s top leaders, including Xi Jinping and former premier Wen Jiabao. Soon after these reports were published, both publications were blocked in China.
A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Qin Gang, said at a news briefing on Monday that the government was processing Ramzy’s application “according to regulations”, but it would not be complete until his temporary visa expired.
The New York Times reports:
Mr. Qin added that Mr. Ramzy had violated Chinese regulations last year by continuing to travel to and from the country using the journalist visa he was issued before he left his previous employer, Time magazine.
But Chinese officials never canceled Mr. Ramzy’s previous visa and never raised the issue with The Times until The Times asked in December about progress on approval of a new visa as the previous one was nearing expiration.
Mr. Qin said the authorities gave Mr. Ramzy a temporary visa in December “in a humanitarian spirit.”
“There is completely no such thing as Austin Ramzy being expelled or forced to leave China, as reported by some media,” Mr. Qin said.
Asked about the indefinite delays in issuing residency visas for Mr. Buckley and Mr. Pan, he replied, “The issuance of visas and residency permits is a matter that only China as a sovereign nation can determine.”
Ramzy will continue reporting on China from outside of the mainland while seeking a long-term residence visa, says The Times.
During his visit to Beijing in December, US Vice President Joe Biden raised concern over the impending threats to expel US journalists, and although many were finally issued renewed journalist visas this month, a number of other reporters working for The Times and for Bloomberg are being barred from taking up assignments in Beijing.