BEIJING • The Chinese authorities delayed renewing the press credentials of some journalists working for American media outlets, including Bloomberg News, CNN and the Wall Street Journal, in response to the Trump administration limiting visa terms for Chinese reporters in the United States.
The foreign journalists in Beijing were told their residence permits will at this stage be extended until Nov 6, which appears to coincide with the date when the 90-day visas given to the Chinese press in the US will need to be renewed.
Two non-Americans at Bloomberg News received a letter allowing them to work and stay in the country in lieu of having official press credentials, which in the past were normally good for 12 months.
A Bloomberg spokesman declined to comment.
The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China called on Beijing to reverse the move.
"These coercive practices have again turned accredited foreign journalists in China into pawns in a wider diplomatic conflict," the group said in a statement yesterday. "(The club) calls on the Chinese government to halt this cycle of tit-for-tat reprisals in what is quickly becoming the darkest year yet for media freedoms."
The dispute is one of several friction points in an increasingly broad clash between the two countries. While China's news organisations are overwhelmingly state-run and subject to strict censorship overseen by the ruling Communist Party, American private news organisations emphasise scrutiny of government actions.
The US has traditionally granted more visas to Chinese media outlets, while China more tightly controls the entrance of foreign journalists. The Trump administration has sought greater parity between the two sides, what it calls "reciprocity".
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said yesterday that visa extension applications for the journalists were being processed and that "they can continue to live and work here with no problems at all".
"We would be glad to continue our excellent cooperation with the #US journalists here if the Chinese journalists are treated fairly in the US," Ms Hua said on Twitter.
At the Chinese Foreign Ministry's regular news briefing yesterday afternoon, another spokesman, Mr Zhao Lijian, accused the US of "kidnapping" journalists and taking "hostages" in the dispute.
"For China, all options are on the table," he said, noting that the US had also refused to rule out any actions.
"If the US truly cares about American journalists in China, it should extend the visas for all Chinese journalists as soon as possible instead of kidnapping Chinese and American journalists out of selfish political purposes," Mr Zhao said.
Beijing has said the US has expelled more than 60 Chinese media personnel and denied visas to more than 20 others.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China said the Chinese government had forced a record 17 foreign correspondents to leave in the first half of this year and put at least a dozen more on visas that are as short as one month.