India has expelled three journalists of the Chinese official news agency, Xinhua, by refusing to renew their visas to work in the country, a move that could worsen the already strained relations between the two countries, HT reports. The three journalists have been ordered to leave India by July 31. Journalists Wu Qiang and Lu Tang head Xinhua’s bureau in New Delhi and Mumbai respectively.
The third, She Yonggang, is a reporter based in Mumbai. No reason was given for the Indian government’s decision to not renew their visas and officials at the external affairs ministry contacted by Hindustan Times on Saturday offered no immediate comment.
HT reached out to Xinhua in Beijing but an official there said nobody could be immediately contacted for a comment. The decision comes at a time when relations between New Delhi and Beijing have been under strain following China’s refusal last month to back India’s bid for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Beijing has been wary of New Delhi’s growing bonhomie with Washington.
Non-renewal of visas is a common practice followed by governments to expel foreign journalists whose writing is seen as critical of official policy. In December, China expelled a French journalist for writing a piece questioning the government’s handling of the situation in the restive Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), describing the reporting as fabricated.
The two countries have a history of delaying granting of journalist visas but this is possibly the first time that an extension or renewal of visas has been denied. The journalists’ visas had expired earlier this year but they were asked to wait. However, their passports were returned to them without the visa, effectively ensuring that they could not move out of the cities of residence.
On July 14, all three were informed that they had to leave India by July 31 as their visas will not be renewed. Analysts said the possibility of China carrying out tit-for-tat expulsions of Indian-journalists could not be ruled out.
Five Indian journalists work out of Beijing at present. Additionally, a number of Indians work for China’s English state media like China Central Television, China Daily and China Radio International. Two more New Delhi-based Indian journalists are currently on a fellowship to China at the invitation of the communist government.