China denies credentials to Wall Street Journal reporter

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China has not renewed journalist’s credentials for a reporter of the Wall Street Journal, the newspaper’s parent company said on Friday, effectively kicking him out of the country.

Chun Han Wong, a Singapore national, had been based in Beijing, where he had reported on politics in China since 2014. His visa expired on Friday.

“We can confirm that Chinese authorities have declined to renew Chun Han’s press credentials,” a Dow Jones spokesman said in an email. “We continue to look into the matter.”

The paper expressed its disappointment.

“It is disappointing that the Chinese government has denied our reporter press credentials,” the paper quoted Matt Murray, its editor in chief, as saying.

“Our journalism has been fair and accurate. We of course remain committed to covering the important story of China with the usual high standards that our readers expect.”

A person with direct knowledge of the situation said officials at the foreign ministry, which accredits foreign reporters, had voiced displeasure to the Journal about a June 30 story written by Wong and another reporter, Philip Wen.

The report here said Australian authorities were looking into the activities of one of Chinese President Xi Jinping's cousins as part of probes into organized crime, money laundering and alleged Chinese influence-peddling.

In response to questions about Wong’s case, the foreign ministry said in a statement, “We resolutely oppose malicious, defamatory attacks on China by individual foreign reporters and we do not welcome this sort of journalist.”

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China condemned the move, saying it was “saddened and angered” by the news.

“Expulsions of journalists from China amount to an extreme attempt by Chinese authorities to punish news organizations that conduct factual work that does not cast the country or its leadership in a flattering light. Foreign correspondents are not propaganda workers, and should not be treated as such.”

Singapore’s embassy in Beijing did not reply to emailed questions about the case.

Foreigners are not allowed to work as journalists in China without official credentials, which are required to obtain a residence visa.

Wen, an Australian, was given a three-month visa on the day before his latest visa was due to expire, the source said. Most journalist visas in China are good for a year.

Writing reports about Chinese leaders or their families can be sensitive in China, where the ruling Communist Party tries to keep an iron grip on information about the leadership and curates its image carefully.

Neither the New York Times nor Bloomberg News received new journalist visas for more than a year after they published stories in 2012 about the wealth of family members of former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Xi, respectively.

Reporting by John Ruwitch and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Clarence Fernandez