China denies targeting Bloomberg after reporter blocked

BEIJING (AFP) - Beijing denied on Tuesday it had sought to target Bloomberg news agency by blocking one of its reporters from a joint event with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

Bloomberg's website has been blocked in China since it reported last year on the wealth of President Xi Jinping's family, and it has recently been embroiled in controversy over an unpublished article about a tycoon's links to senior Communist figures.

Robert Hutton, a UK-based Bloomberg reporter travelling as part of the entourage accompanying Cameron on his visit to China, was told at the last minute he would be unable to attend Monday's joint Cameron-Li press statement because Chinese officials believed his participation "would not be appropriate", according to multiple reports.

Cameron personally raised the matter later Monday after a dinner with Xi, the Guardian newspaper reported.

Cameron's office said in a statement that before the event, it "raised our concerns at senior levels and made clear it would be completely inappropriate to exclude journalists from the press statements".

"When we heard what had happened today we expressed our deep concern to senior Chinese officials about journalists being blocked," the statement added.

China's foreign ministry denied that Bloomberg had been intentionally targeted.

"The related press conference should first satisfy the needs of the journalists from China and the UK," spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular briefing.

"Based on that, we try our best to satisfy the needs of other journalists, because the site is limited there, and the arrangements we made in accordance with such requirements were no different from before," he added.

Separately, Fortune Magazine reported on Tuesday that Chinese authorities had made unannounced "inspections" of Bloomberg's Beijing and Shanghai bureaux last week.

One of the officials demanded an apology for a comment reportedly made by editor-in-chief Matthew Winkler comparing the Chinese government to Nazi Germany, according to Fortune.

Belina Tan, Bloomberg's Asia Pacific spokeswoman, declined to comment on either incident.

Last month, a Hong Kong-based Bloomberg reporter left the company after the New York Times reported management decided to scrap an article about a Chinese tycoon and his ties to the families of Communist Party leaders amid concerns it could jeopardise the newswire's coverage of China.

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